Emica goes in pursuit of lunch in Paris and Berlin

How glamorous. What air of intrigue. How totally European: to take the 20:15 night train from Paris to Berlin; alone. I feel like a character from a Tolstoy novel or perhaps a fugitive agitator, en route to foment revolution and bring about the downfall of the owning classes, delivering the means of production into the hands of the workers. Ahem. Apologies. Having had a starring role in books and films, as well as actual history, European train travel is so evocative that I get a bit carried away with the romance of the tracks. (If you’re doubtful, check this site out; I get a sudden urge to book long journeys to exotic destinations).

Air travel has become a tedious cattle market experience, so recently I took the overnight train from Paris to Berlin. While both cities have earnt a place at the table of world history, it can be tricky to get a bite to eat in either.

I’ve been to Paris a few times now and have done the major sights, so with just an afternoon in the city before my connecting train, I figured it would be best spent over a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately, I arrived in Paris at 2.30 and so missed my place at a bistro, as the dining hours are observed very strictly. Having reconciled myself to an afternoon without a creme caramel, the tricky thing about having over shot the lunch hour is that, in Feb it’s not as inviting to grab a baguette, some cheese and a slice of apricot tart and find a park bench. It’s a little chilly. But, the weather was mild and sunny- and hunger wins over cold- so a picnique was my best bet to eat.

You know those cheese and bacon slices that Brumby’s does? From memory, inch thick rubber cheese pocked with pellets of salted animal byproduct on pizza dough. Well, the cheese and bacon slice I got from the swank Parisian bakery was about as far from Brumby’s in a culinary sense as it is in geographic distance. Stinky gruyere with nuggets of speck on flaky butter pastry. One euro fifty slice of cheesey goodness. I also got an olive ficelle, which was almost 50/50 squashy kalamatas to chewy sourdough. And thank goodness I did because I didn’t really eat for nearly the next 24 hours, except to nibble a bit more of the unending ficelle.

Part of the reason I don’t manage to eat is I was too busy drinking, which won’t come as much of a surprise to many. A joy of travel is chance encounters and a party of two English couples celebrating a joint birthday take me under their wing in the bar carriage. We planned to test the urban myth that a train barman stays as long as his customers and I stumbled (well, it is a moving train!) into my couchette rather later than I’d planned, having not eaten the snacks I brought along as dinner. I’m not usually too pernickity, but in the morning I decide that it’s probably best not to breakfast on yesterday’s quiche, still wrapped in its greaseproof; eggs in a warm couchette for 12 hours doesn’t sound like a good idea. The ficelle tides me over.

Berlin is big. Compared to London, with its dense, higgledy, narrow streets and people under foot at every turn, Berlin is huge and wide and straight and empty and I feel a bit disoriented by the space. An interesting fact a colleague in economic development told me is that, when major cities across the western world were gaining population in the past 20 years, Berlin lost people.

An olive ficelle is not much to keep a girl going for a whole morning of sight seeing and so I headed towards a place recommended in my guide book that seemed to be only three blocks away. Except, three blocks in spacious Berlin seems to be about a kilometre and a half in distance and, in empty Berlin, didn’t offer many alternative eating options along the way either. I never found the well recommended restaurant due possibly to my confusion with street numbering or the great Saturday shut down, but instead found Lutter & Wegner, an entirely charming piece of European civilisation, with wine lined walls, floorboards and scrubbed wooden tables.

The menu tended towards proper main courses and the tables around me had plates of serious looking food, but the terrine I ordered was exactly what I felt like eating. They were very generous with the bread basket of very good bread (caraway!) so with that and a glass of reisling, I was very pleased with myself. I was even more pleased when my dessert arrived – curd cheese cake with sour cherries and nougat icecream with a huge twirl of wafer. Alright!

The lovely English people from the train had invited me to join them for dinner and so I had a second thoroughly enjoyable night drinking too much with strangers – which sounds a lot more salacious than it was. It struck me that this was the kind of European food I almost never eat – ordinarily I cook more in the mediterranean-middle eastern palette and, post Friday work pints, continue the theme with a kebab on the way home. Chic, refined European cooking isn’t something I often do, but I may make it more of a habit because my lobster soup was delicious: smooth, velvety and fishy, and the pork with leek risotto to follow was excellent. I’m a little hazy on what my new found friends had because of the reisling – I think the fellas may have had lobster at some point, tuna carpaccio was mentioned and due to the heavy meat element in the menu the waiter was at pains to help the one vegetarian get a full meal.

Prenzlauer Berg, an inner north area of former East Berlin, is now a very hip quarter, with lots of cafes, bars, hipsters on bikes and, oddly, babies. I’ve never seen so many Bugaboos! After the last couple of days wearing out my shoe leather in pursuit of food, I’d started feeling cursed to wander, seeking sustenance but forever denied. In Prenzlauer Berg however, the fault was all mine. It wasn’t for lack of choice – the main street is dominated by various cafes, including a bar on the ground floor of a squat – but my pickiness about the kinds of signifiers I look for in somewhere to eat. And my choosiness can mean very long walks to see what’s round the next corner. So after some legwork on Kastanienallee, I lucked upon a super cool cafe on Oderberger Strase. So cool that I can’t remember it’s name written in German in neon on the front. This cafe served only crepes (which should be due a comeback in the English speaking world I think) and, riffing on a retro theme, was entirely decorated with raids from some stylish nanna’s living room.

In a country that invented the last word in cake related indulgence – schwarzwelderkirschtorte [black forest cake]- my last food adventure was kafee und kuchen at Anna Blume, a cafe and florist rolled into one with a very sexy painting of a Demeter-type figure in Art Noveau style on one wall and a glass cabinet of cakes. Mmmm sachertorter…

And just one final thought – train stations featured quite prominently during the weekend and this chain of croissant and pretzel shops was always found somewhere near the platforms. It just sounds vaguely rude, doesn’t it?!


What we talk about when we talk about food blogging

This is a write up of the notes of my talk at the Eat.Drink.Blog food blogger conference. Some of it didn’t get said on the day because I was the last of the three speakers (by choice!) and didn’t want to cover ground they’d covered so well.

Because attendance was limited to a small group on this occasion, the hope is that by sharing the substance of our talks we can extend and continue the conversation.

Gill began the “Why we blog” session, the first of the day, and has written up her talk here and here. Reem’s got some video and a list of links to all the attendee’s blogs at I am obsessed with food… and Pat from Cooking Down Under has also done a “Why we blog” post. Updated: Lisa Dempster has joined in with How and why I blog, and here’s an article of hers from last year, Well connected: the power of social food media.

Posts about other sessions and wrap-ups are being collected at the Eat.Drink.Blog site.

We blog for the love of cookery

I don’t think that someone who wasn’t genuinely passionate about these things could blog about food convincingly.

There are a million different nuances to the way we choose to eat, and to the subjects we want to consider on our food blogs. It’s not really important what particular form our passion takes – for me it’s domestic cookery contextualised, with an emphasis on food politics and feminist environmentalism, and with a fair dose of pointy-headed, book-obsessed food nerdery.

It really doesn’t matter what your bag is – if you write about what moves you, you will find an audience. If you look around the conference [or now, online] you’ll see home cooks, a chef/restaurant owner, former waitresses and other hospitality staff, a food stylist, [a food columnist,] some vegans, [some chicken-killin’ mamas,] some pescetarians and a whole bunch of other food lovers.

We blog because we have an interesting relationship with food

I live in Canberra, which just happens to be a fantastic place to live for a person who’s interested in eating food that is organic, local and seasonal, and who wants to have enough space at home to keep chickens and grow veggies and herbs.

The local nature of my writing is a really important part of my thinking about what to write, and not just so a local audience has useful information, but because – like I am – interested eaters are interested in what other people do in their kitchens.

I read a lot of food blogs, and lots of different styles of food blog. The only ones I tend to avoid focus primarily on lots of photographs of restaurant dinners with a bunch of other food bloggers – it becomes a bit same-same looking at six pictures of the same dish on six different blogs. That said, I do read reviews and other writers at Progressive Dinner Party post them. Part of the reason I don’t is that as our children are still little I make most of our meals, and don’t eat out much. The food blogs that I am most passionate about make central an intellectual or thoughtful consideration of those parts of our daily lives that are easily overlooked or dismissed as mundane, but have importance to us as individuals.

There’s another related reason to blog about food, the reason that dare not speak its name but should, and that’s to show off a little bit – about what we can appreciate or what we can make, or how we can present it. It’s good to be proud of what we can cook, build, make, understand or express.

We blog for the love of writing

I’ve been blogging for almost six years, and I love it. I really, really love it. There are two threads to this – first, the love of writing, and secondly the love of the ways that using the medium of blogging creates opportunities to play with form.

To give a very simple example, the ability to entwine text and image in blogging in a way that’s not possible on a static page makes a step-by-step “How-to” a different beast. When I first thought about starting a food blog, I thought I’d do more of that kind of stuff, but as it turned out it didn’t really suit me.

I do really love the craft of writing, and to me it echoes the craft of cooking. Both help keep me sane. The best description I’ve heard was that blogging is a kind of “lap swimming for writers”. The line belongs to Georg, an Information Architect, football nut and longtime blogger, who has posted on country Chinese restaurants at ProgDins.

Another really exciting part about publishing your own blog is developing mastery of your bloging platform and – over time – making yourself a beautiful site. I started on blogger, and changed to WordPress about four years ago. Like everyone else using WordPress at the Eat.Drink.Blog conference I encourage blogspot bloggers to take the plunge. It gives you vastly more freedom and control, it’s not that hard, and the community will help you, as they did me. From being a complete novice, I’m now in a position to sometimes offer help to others, which is a good feeling. I’m no expert, and I still need help from time to time, and I’ve found that a tone of desperation on twitter attracts a prompt and generous response. (And after the conference I was able to buy Matt the drink I owed him for working out what was borking my template a few months ago.)

An important thing to remember is that if you use blogging as a creative practice, you can expect ebbs and flows in both your desire to do it, and your success in creating what you want to achieve. That’s the nature of a creative practice, and not something worth beating yourself up over.

These things are important, but the most singular characteristic of blogging as opposed to other forms of writing is the ability to interact with your readers, which I discuss below.

We blog because the professional food media isn’t talking about what we’re interested in reading

This is a really big element in my particular impetus to get into food blogging. I cancelled my subscription to Gourmet Traveller years ago because I’d had enough of reading about PR launches and hot new things in darling jars.

From the beginning with PDP I approached other online writers to be guest posters, and scouted out good food-related writing by bloggers whose sites weren’t food-focused. There are now more than a dozen contributors from beyond Canberra. Operating as a group blog means that I feel less pressure to post, and there are a variety of engaged voices.

When I was asked by the local paper’s Food & Wine section to describe what the site was like, I said what we were aiming for was “writing about food and eating that is intelligent, socially engaged, grounded in a particular place and season, had interesting ideas about what to do for dinner and some jokes.”

I find much of the professional food media available in Australia has very little to offer me – I’m not interested in quick and easy recipes to feed the whole family, or the hottest new restaurant in town. I share a lot of prejudices with local Food & Wine section editor, so for me the professional media in Canberra doesn’t serve too badly, but there’s still a lot of bought-in content and writing by people who don’t share the level of engagement with food that we bloggers do.

We blog because we like to be part of a community of interest

I started my first blog, crazybrave, in mid 2004. I was at home with a toddler in a town where I didn’t know that many people. My old friend Steevie had started a blog and came around one night and told me that he’d read an article saying that the internet was going to the dogs because it was losing its initial character as a particpatory forum. He convinced me of the importance of being a participant, not just a surfer.

I was blown away by how interactive this blogging thing could make the otherwise pretty solitary process of writing.

Comments are the most obvious mechanism of interacting, and I’m always interested to find that I can’t pick which element of a post will be what attracts people to make a comment. At PDP, there is a convivial atmosphere which encourages others to join the conversation, and it’s the thing I most value about the blog. Some of the beautiful commenting culture there comes from already having a wide circle of online relationships when I started the food blog, but it’s really just a matter of inviting engagement and providing something people want to engage with.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have a squillion readers to create really interesting and genuine conversations. The comment threads on some of the hugely famous and popular food blogs – say 101 cookbooks – lose that cosiness because there’s 600 comments on every post, 400 of which say “yum, I want to make that!” and another 150 say “can I substitute parsley for the coriander? I really don’t care for coriander.” [It was interesting at the Eat.Drink.Blog conference to hear a number of people had received gentle suggestions that they might like to start their own blogs when their comments at someone else’s site became longer, and longer, and longer.]

Interactivity – this community we’re building – isn’t limited to comments. There’s also the ability to link to other posts, to recreate dishes or visit restaurants that other bloggers have talked about, to go out together and to cook together, either as part of a blog carnival or group, or in the flesh. The friendships I have made through blogging are indistinguishable from the other friendships in my life; you’re my blog friends, the way that I have “uni friends”, “work friends”, etc. etc.

These friendships cross age, social and cultural groups. If you’re visiting a new place, they’ll be recommendations of things not to miss, whether markets, restaurants, great coffee. When we do meet, it’s easy, not awkward, because we know each other through something we share a deep passion about.

There’s also the ability to offer and receive culinary help from people who have greater familiarity with an ingredient, who are very experienced in a particular cuisine or dish, or who just share a similar palate to you and can guess what you might like. Twitter works really well in this way too – What’s this thing I’ve brought home from the markets? What on earth am I going to do with another six zucchini? Who wants this cookbook I don’t use anymore?

A final element of that feeling of community is the obligation to do the decent and civil thing by our loved ones who don’t share our passion, and refrain from boring them to death. Starting a food blog is almost certainly not going to impress your partner. In fact I really wish my partner would start a homebrew blog so I never had to hear the phrase “starting gravity” again.

To me, trying to encapsulate what we do in food blogging comes down to love. We love to cook, and eat, and feed people. We love to talk about food, to think about food, and to read about food. We do it for love.

[If you want to start a food blog, there’s a brilliant guide by Phil Lees at The Last Appetite in three parts. How to start; Designing and building your food blog; Making money ]

Takeaway on Friday

I was struck by an idea from Michael of My Aching Head in his Eat.Drink.Blog follow-up post:

I have also long had the desire to create a bit more of a shorter form of blogging, in part stepping back to the Kottke style of linking and making small and valuable comment. It is something that isn’t really done here in the Australian food blogging community and I think it might be interesting to my readers.

I think so too – quite often things I think are worth mentioning slip me by entirely because I get so caught up in the lack of time to write a considered or detailed post. Cath from The Canberra Cook has an occasional series called Internet Salmagundi, which is a link post, but not exclusively food-related. (A salmagundi is a dish of minced meat with eggs, anchovies, vinegar and seasoning, or a medley or miscellany)

So I’m going to experiment with a Friday afternoon link post of food and cookery-related writing that’s intrigued, delighted or appalled me in the last little while. This week, a delight and an invitation:

The delight is a piece by one of the granddaddies of Australian blogging, Tim Dunlop. A blog round-up article by Tim in the Fairfax press in late 2003 or early 2004 was what got me first reading blogs; in those days you could give a round-up of the Australian blogsophere in a column;) He’s blogged for The Australian in the past, and now writes Johnny’s in the Basement, Crikey’s music blog. Tim has always talked about cooking and his enjoyment of it, and my recent twittergasm about the arrival of my new knife (from Japan, in a friend’s luggage) has finally fired him up to to write Music to Sharpen Knives by. You need to register to comment, but the registration counts for all Crikey blogs.

The invitation has been extended by Neil, of At My Table, who I was fortunate to meet at last weekend’s conference. Neil has written very movingly on his blog about his beloved daughter M, who has autism. April 2 is World Autism Day, and Neil is planning to make a contribution:

At My Table will be taking part in the day by cooking a dish of one single colour, to represent the diets of some of those, especially children, on the autistic spectrum whom only eat food that is of one particular colour, something of a nightmare for parents concerned with good nutrition.

If anyone else could manage the difficult task of a one coloured dish and would like to blog it, I would be happy to link to your post. It would be a tremendous show of support for parents, who, quite frankly, often run out of ideas. You can find my contact details in the right-side column.

I’m thinking orange; probably some kind of pumpkin, sweet potato, tomato, carrot tagine. Or maybe some gnocchi.

Eat.Drink.Blog – the washup

You know, I’ve never been to a conference where everyone stayed for all the sessions, all the presenters were uniformly interesting and no-one was bored for a minute. People I thought I would like I REALLY liked; and the people I wasn’t sure about I REALLY liked too. And I met some completely new people and – yes – REALLY liked them.

Part of the brief talk I gave was about blogging as a way of exploring and enjoying a community of interest, and it certainly seemed there was a real joy for all of us in being in a room full of people who “get” our passion because they share it.

I’m planning to write up my talk and post it soon, (you will be glad to hear that despite the fears of another attendee before the conference, it wasn’t too wanky 😉 Gill of confessions of a food nazi has a post on some of her excellent talk here, and a plan to blog the rest. She’s encouraged the rest of us who participated in panels to do the same, and I think it would be great to link them all from the Eat.Drink.Blog site.

There were three (I think) attendees who weren’t on twitter, and less by the end of the day. The stream of the #eatdrinkblog hashtag appeared on the super-cool projected TweetWall – Lisa of unwakeable, Nola and Suzanne of essjayeff being the funny-girl stars of the day. Although I wish they had been less funny in the panel segment, sitting facing the audience cracking up at a tweet I couldn’t read!

I really appreciated that there wasn’t a push towards homogeneity amongst the group, in fact quite the reverse. I think the best session to demonstrate the point was the photography one, where Ellie from Kitchen Wench, Nola from Once a Waitress and Matt from Abstract Gourmet talked about their individual ways of going about making photos that worked the way they wanted them to, with a few tips and tricks thrown in. (Ellie’s tip – read the manual; Nola’s – think about using photographs as a means of communication; Matt’s – find a way to do it that works for you).

Claire from Melbourne Gastronome pulled off a real feat with her talk, managing to be legally precise and not dull. I really wasn’t expecting the sessions on SEO (by Michael of My Aching Head), “How to be social” (by Pennie of Jeroxie:addictive and consuming), geotagging (Brian of fitzroyalty) and the monetising sessions (by Jules of Stonesoup and Phil of The Last Appetite) to be interesting, but I found them fascinating because the presenters really knew their stuff – as @tummyrumbles (mellie) put it on the Tweetwall, they showed a “good balance of nerdy theory and feel good philosophy”.

I found some things quite surprising throughout the day – that so many of us who’d been blogging for a few years had blogged on other subjects (like me, mostly politics) before coming to focus on food; the immediacy of our ease in each other’s company; how generous everyone was with their expertise and how true-to-life some people’s blogging identities are. For instance The Healthy Party Girl left in the afternoon to go to cheerleader practice and came back to bum a fag and piss on in the laneway!

Once the strictly social part of the day kicked in, we started to talk about the next Eat.Drink.Blog. What made it possible this year was the organisation work (by Ed of Tomatom, Reem of I am obsessed with food… (who have a beautiful talk on why she blogs, including starting because she needed somewhere to talk about her love life!) Mellie of Tummyrumbles, , April of My Food Trail, Jess of That Jess Ho, who hung the photo exhibit, and Tammi of Tammi Tasting Terroir who moderated – thank you all).

There was also significant sponsorship from the organisations listed at the end of this post. Certainly for interstate visitors it made it much more affordable to not have to pay to register and to be treated to lovely drinks and food, and not having to handle monetary exchanges meant we don’t need to formalise an organisational structure and the further administrative load that entails. I think it’s really important that more people have the opportunity to go, but I’m eager to find a way for that to happen without losing the lovely sense of intimacy that permeated the day. On the third hand, having organising multiple streams during the day means we can really go into detail and cover a lot more ground.

There is a full list of bloggers who attended (thanks to Mellie), and I’ve set up a twitter list here. I’m conscious that I haven’t mentioned everyone; I encourage you to check out the full list.

The conference was sponsored by Daylesford and Hepburn Water, Der Raum, Prentice Wine, Red Hill Brewery, SBS Food, StreetSmart – Helping the Homeless, St Ali and The Essential Ingredient.

NB – this post is brought to you by an absence of blurry iphone photos. Not that there aren’t any, but they’re not mine – my phone’s from Aldi.

Our school garden is part of the Open Garden scheme this weekend

If you’re in Canberra, the Majura Primary School is participating in the Open Garden Scheme. Part fund-raiser, part hoping to inspire and part pride at how far we’ve come …

It’s a joint gig with the garden of Barbara Wheeler and Stephen Knight. Stephen is the school’s fantastic caretaker, and Barbara has been instrumental in motivating significant changes in the revitalisation program of the school, a process that preceeded our success in becoming the ACT demonstration School for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

Details are here – it’s a measly $8 for entry to the two gardens (both in Watson), with no charge for people aged under 18. The School will have a little cafe running, and if you want to try some of my cooking go for the banana muffins with cream cheese icing or the little spiced apple teacake muffins. Neither is a low fat option, so enjoy. Year 4 students will be guiding tours of the indigenous plants that form the entrance to the school, and the kitchen garden will be open for tours too. Our awesome Garden Specialist, Rik Allen, will be there to answer any burning questions and talk about the long term plans to establish an organic garden on permaculture principles. There are also climatically appropriate heirloom variety seedlings ready to be planted now.

Here’s a peek at our kitchen, looking down from the dining area to the kitchen itself. It’s beautiful – a large, airy high ceilinged space in the kitchen with a few steps up to a cosy dining area with big sliding doors overlooking a reclaimed driveway that became an Environment Courtyard and is now a fully-fledged school kitchen garden. Our Kitchen Teacher, Fran Stevens, has just been appointed this week, and she’s fantastic. She has a son in Year 1 at the school and has been heavily involved in building the garden. I’m really excited to be one of “Fran’s Army” of volunteers – and if you’re interested leave a comment and I’ll hound you down 😉

and here’s our handsome chookshed, which has several little sections running out from it with different kinds of plants so the chickens can be corralled around to do their Important Chicken Business:

Unfortunately, I’m not able to be there as I’m travelling to Melbourne for the first Australian Food Bloggers’ Conference Eat.Drink.Blog, where I’m presenting on “Why we blog” with Reem of I am obsessed with food and Gill of confessions of a food nazi.

I will, however, be around on Thursday, when (drumroll, please!) Stephanie Alexander makes a flying visit to launch the program at our school. And you’re all invited:

If you come, make sure to find the really tall woman chasing a toddler and wiping the tears of joy from her eyes and say hi.

Very Pleasant

Remember that little craze of peering into each other’s fridges a while back? Even the fancypants architectural mags are getting into it now:

Among other things, the couple’s refrigerator contains garlic scapes, Meyer lemon preserves, Araucana chicken eggs from Chelsea’s grandfather’s farm, juneberry jam, fresh El Popo tortillas, a ginger beer starter, pickled sour cherries (used in the salad), Tortuga hot sauce, Sriracha, homemade chili relish, and a kombucha mushroom.

(Photo: Matthew Williams; Dwell, March 2010)

Unlike much design and architectural photography, Dwell always features the people who live in the spaces. As my friend Nigel points out, the lighting necessary for the architecture pron angle doesn’t really suit the humans. Fortunately for us all, the brilliant site Unhappy Hipsters takes images from Dwell and other similar mags, and adds a little touch of humanity:

Their relationship was based on preparing absurdly complicated recipes using overpriced ingredients.

(Photo: Matthew Williams; Dwell, March 2010)

Don’t miss the full slideshow of this particular food-nerd Chicago apartment and the full article in Dwell. The owners, Chef Art and Writer/Editor Chelsea have a blog called The Pleasant House.

And here are a few more cookery and kitchen-related Unhappy Hipsters for your amusement:

Sunrise, and still no flame. He didn’t even have to look; he knew his guests had gone home.

(via Unhapy Hipsters, Photo: Darcy Hemley; Dwell, September 2004)

The sad truth was that the divide was rooted in the disappearance of a rare Marimekko maxi dress.

(via Unhappy Hipsters. Photo: Prue Ruscoe; Dwell, March 09)

With the shelves finally ordered by size, function, and smell, he got to work separating the pine needles from the sawdust on the terrace.

(via Unhappy Hipsters, photo: Misha Gravenor, Dwell, May 2007)

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z reaches Eden. Eden road, anyway.

“My dog has no nose.”
“How does he smell?”

There is a point to this ancient gag but we’ll get to it later.

The exterior of the cellar door at Eden Road isn’t visually inspiring – think disused light industrial warehouse rather than timber-panelled rustic winery – but the quality of the wine and the friendliness of Patrick, the CD attendant, more than made up for any dowdiness.

Situated in what was the Kamberra winery, Eden Road has links with South Australia (Eden Valley, as the name suggests) but is now focussing on winemaking in the Canberra region using local grapes as well as fruit from Tumbarumba and up and comers such as Hilltops. This has already paid dividends – last year winemaker Nick Spence and the 2008 Hilltops Shiraz strolled away with the Jimmy Watson trophy in a competition that attracted more than 560 wineries.

Before we started tasting, Patrick, who is also a student winemaker at CSU explained there were three tiers to try – top of the range Eden Road, second tier The Long Road and entry level Grower’s Co-op. The Grower’s Co-op is a great initiative that has managed to turn growers’ surplus parcels of fruit into good quality quaffers selling for around $10 a bottle.

The current wine list is extensive. We tasted only a fraction, but still managed to carry away a carton of wine and sign up for their discount club (as an Eden Roadie you score a 20 per cent discount on all future purchases).

It was just after Patrick explained about the three tiers, we’d worked out what to sample (only the local-ish drops) and I was feeling pretty much in command when my nasal intelligence had a major setback. My nose wasn’t blocked but I was missing the upper register. We were only on the light whites, no need to panic. But taste after taste it was all the same – something was definitely wrong*. It was not until I got to the stronger reds that I started picking up verifiable aromas. And even then nothing more definable than vague spice and earthy smells. Bugger… you never hear about ‘King’ James, ‘Captain’ Hooke or ‘Soupy’ Mattinson having an off day with no sense of smell#.

My nose had never let me down like this before – even with a light case of the flu I can usually detect scents others can’t. Possibly, I should’ve called it quits and returned when my conk was shipshape but hey, this blog won’t update itself and we’re a long way away from finish line.

So, calling to mind the words of Mr Ryan, my grade 10 science teacher (“Oh well, the experiment didn’t work but we all know what happens anyway. Look it up in the book”) I decided to plough on regardless. The takeout was they tasted good and to fill in the blank spots I spent the next two months in research (i.e. drinking copious amounts of Eden Road).

The best way to get a handle on the tiers is to try the pinot noir as they’re all worth the bottle price. The Eden Road 08 Pinot ($30) is the more complex of the three with lots of silky tannins and some earthy notes while at the other end of the spectrum the 08 Growers Coop ($10) is lighter and very drinkable with bright cherry flavours. My favourite is the middle tier 08 Long Road Tumbarumba Pinot ($16) – it’s not as intense as the Eden Road but has lots of flavour.

On the day the 2008 Hilltops Barberra Nebiollo stood out ($16.50). It’s dark and earthy on the nose, juicy and luscious with savoury notes but could benefit from some cellar time. From all this it was easy to make up a mixed dozen (for which we paid around $160 – not bad as we included more than a couple from the top tier). Our haul included two chardies (08 Growers Coop & 08 Eden Road Tumbarumba), a riesling, a rose and a cab sauv, the three tiers of pinot noir and the barberra nebiollo.

The surprise pick was the 2008 Growers Coop Viogner that thrown in without tasting to make up the numbers. I can’t remember what we drank it with, probably something like pizza or pasta, but I do know we should have bought a few more bottles. It was a lovely quaffer – honeydew and apricot on the nose and that deliciously distinct viogner flavour. Refreshing, with good acidity it tasted better than the $10 bottle price.

My nose may have deserted me on the day but nothing could spoil the sheer enjoyment I got from this visit. Having a friendly and engaging cellar door attendant who is enthusiastic about the product makes all the difference. I’m looking forward to a return visit, allergy free and with a wider tasting brief to tackle the rest of the road.

*It was only later when my nose started feeling delicately sandblasted that I realised it was an allergy.

#Or perhaps they’re smart enough not to go wine tasting if they have a cold or an allergy. Please note any complaints regarding the nicknames foisted on some of our most respected wine writers should be addressed to our man in Canberra.

Eden Road
Cnr Northbourne Ave & Flemington Rd
Lyneham ACT 2602

12 noon to 4:30pm Friday
9:30am to 4:30pm Saturday
11am to 4pm Sunday

(02) 6220 8500

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z is crossposted from her blog Our Notional Capital, where she blogs with Our Man In Canberra.