An exclusive AT magazine excerpt and online tips on gourmet food on a budget.

Eat Caviar Pay Peanuts

If you’re tightening the budget at the moment, our current issue has some help on how to make it go further. AT’s Tiana Templeman shows how to avoid paying big bucks, without resorting to tins of baked beans . And once you’ve worked up an appetite, look below for some state-by-state suggestions for travelling gourmets. From tasting platters over cooking classes through to indulgent weekend packages.

Mention holiday dining on a budget and you’ll likely hear sorry tales involving Vegemite sandwiches and instant noodles. But not from me. After many years spent travelling with a wallet substantially smaller than my love of good food, I’ve discovered there are many ways to dine like a king while paying like a pauper. All it takes is a little planning and creativity and you too can enjoy memorable holiday dining without breaking the bank.
Not many people think “cooking class” when it comes to dining out but these provide a wonderful and surprisingly cost-effective opportunity to enjoy good food and wine together with convivial conversation. Your newfound cooking skills will also make a wonderful souvenir to take home. Try The Spirit House (www.spirithouse.com.au ) in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and enjoy free wine and beer while you dine on Thai food prepared during the class, or check out The Agrarian Kitchen (www.theagrariankitchen.com ), a hands-on, farm-based school in Tasmania’s beautiful Derwent Valley. A cooking class is particularly good for solo travellers who enjoy good food but not dining alone in a restaurant.

Lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner, especially at restaurants with a strong evening trade. Keep an eye out for specials designed to get people through the door for this traditionally quieter sitting. Jamie Oliver’s acclaimed Fifteen Melbourne (www.fifteenmelbourne.com.au ) offers an Express Lunch with two courses and a glass of wine for $45.
Multi-course set menus are another way to stretch your dining dollar. These are available at many restaurants but I’ve found the regional ones tend to offer the best value (in other words, you won’t need dinner). For example, while planning a trip to the Yarra Valley I discovered the restaurant at De Bortoli (www.debortoli.com.au ) does a four-course Chef’s Menu for $55 per person. Restaurants with a good set menu tend to book out, though, so be prepared to book early.
If dinner is your favourite meal, try supplementing it with free eats from the hotel (and no, I don’t mean muffins plundered during breakfast). Paying a little extra to stay in a club floor room comes with numerous benefits, including evening drinks and canapés, which means you’ll only need a light dinner or can perhaps even share a meal. I wouldn’t advise doing this somewhere fancy but most waiters don’t mind if you ask for an extra plate and order a side of vegetables or salad to round things out. If you haven’t the courage to try this tactic while dining out, consider ordering a club sandwich and bowl of fries from room service and share your meal in private.

Self-catering is easy on the budget and helps travellers better appreciate a destination’s culinary landscape. A trip to the local farmers’ market (www.farmersmarkets.org.au ) makes for an enjoyable outing and provides all you need for a picnic. Those staying in self-contained digs can take full advantage of this.
Another option is to save your holiday dining dollars for one truly memorable meal. Savour getting to know your destination and spend time choosing an exquisite restaurant with an excellent reputation. There’s an illicit thrill in knowing that even budget travellers can afford to dine anywhere they like, albeit only once. Or maybe twice? After all, you ARE on holiday.

And here are some up-to-date ideas for gourmet travellers across Australia:

NSW

Wine Hunter
Hunter Valley Semillon, one of Australia’s premium and iconic wines, will be celebrated by thousands of wine and food lovers at this year’s Hunter Valley Semillon and Seafood event from April 17 to 19, 2009.
In its 8th year, this spectacular weekend will play host to over 20 Semillon inspired activities that will include Semillon MasterClasses, world class chef demonstrations, lunches, degustation dinners, sneak peak tastings, and many more fantastic experiences to indulge all the senses.

Not to be missed, this year’s Feature Event will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 10.30am to 4pm at historic Tyrrell’s Vineyard in the heart of the Hunter Valley.
General admission to Saturday’s event is $30 per person and includes one souvenir glass, one wine bag, 12 tasting vouchers, a bottle of Island Chill water, Semillon Masterclasses, cooking demonstrations, and live music. For a full weekend program and event details, visit www.huntersemillonandseafood.com.au or call 02 4991 4533.

Tastes of the Hunter
Shoal Bay Resort & Spa are delighted to continue the popular “Tastes of the Hunter” Winemaker Evenings with Allandale Winery launching the 2009 series on Saturday 7th March. Tickets are available at $89 per person which includes the 6 course “Tastes of the Hunter” degustation menu accompanied with a carefully matched Allandale wine per course, and commentary by Bill Sneddon. Numbers are limited and bookings essential, please call 1800 18 18 10. Accommodation packages are also available.

Oysters in May
Indulge your senses in a weekend of high-class feasting and entertainment at the Narooma Oyster Festival from Friday 15 – Sunday 17 May. The pure waters of this picturesque NSW south coast town produce exceptional oysters which are served at top seafood restaurants including Doyles and Jordons. For more info, head to www.naroomaoysterfestival.com

Squidgy in Mudgee
Two reasons to march into Mudgee this March include the Mudfest International Short Film Festival on 21 March 2009 and Footcrush Feast on 14 March 2009. Mudfest is the region’s cultural night of nights, held under the stars at picturesque Elliot Rocke Estate, and Footcrush Feast is a unique opportunity to get squidgy feet, make wine and eat like a king at Robert Stein Winery.

Mudfest at Elliot Rocke Estate: Mudgee’s cultural night of nights returns on Saturday 21 March 2009 for ‘Mudfest’, the region’s renowned international short film festival. Join hundreds of film buffs under the stars at Elliot Rocke Estate and enjoy 14 feature films that have made the final cut, along with local food and wine.
Tickets to Mudfest cost $25 per person and include a complimentary glass of wine on arrival. For more information and bookings go to www.mudfest.com.au or call (02) 6372 7722. Elliot Rocke Estate is located at Craigmoor Road, Mudgee.

Footcrush Feast: Get squidgy feet, make wine and eat like a king, that’s the philosophy behind this year’s ‘Footcrush Feast’ in Mudgee. Held from 5pm on Saturday 14 March 2009, this relaxed and fun afternoon of traditional vineyard celebrations marks the 2009 Harvest at Robert Stein Winery.
Tickets to Footcrush Feast cost $110 per person and include wine, canapés, dinner, crushing, entertainment, a bus from town and return, and a bottle of the crushed Shiraz in 2010.
To secure your spot call (02) 6373 3991 or go to www.robertstein.com.au

VIC

Bite-sized Morsels
To those in the know, the secret is out, Le Bar, the basement sibling of Bistro Guillaume is the private and secluded venue in which to enjoy premium French Champagne accompanied by Guillaume Brahimi’s decadent bite size morsels.
Diners are in the driver’s seat as they are able to order a selection of four (AUD$22), six (AUD$33) or eight (AUD$44) small dishes in any combination of any of the eight dishes available.
Deciding whether to have the mini blue swimmer crabmeat sandwich or in-house smoked salmon on toasted brioche or choosing Jamon Iberico and toasted sourdough over steak tartare or the terrine du jour will be the challenge.
For bookings, head to www.crownmelbourne.com.au

Breadbaking to Degustation
There’s something on the menu for everyone at the Mornington Peninsula’s 2009 Harvest to Table Festival in March, with more than 20 events including a food and wine workshop for vegans and vegetarians, breadbaking for kids, real ale workshops, organic tea tastings and degustation menus featuring the best of Peninsula produce.

Organised by Mornington Peninsula Gourmet and running from Friday March 13 to Sunday March 22, the fifth annual festival also features a kitchen garden workshop at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, the Festival of Olives at Olio Zito and a ‘Harvest on Horseback’ package at Lindenderry of Red Hill which includes wine tastings on a horseback winery tour.
Gourmet getaways are also available at Max’s at Red Hill Estate and the Big Blue Backyard retreat at exclusive St Andrew’s Beach.
For more information and accommodation bookings, check out www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org or call 1800 804 009 or +61(03) 5987 3078.

Food Fairytale
One of Port Fairy’s oldest dining institutions has been made over with a fresh new face. The Stag, adjacent to the historic Seacombe House, has shrugged off its dowdy and ‘stuffy’ past in its latest incarnation as Port Fairy’s freshest casual eatery.
Under the stewardship of celebrated Chef Tanya Connellan and her partner Liz Foreman, the restaurant is angling to take up a new niche in the tourist town whose fine restaurants have developed a loyal following.
www.seacombehouse.com.au

QLD

Caffeine Hit
Back by popular demand, the iconic Queensland Merlo coffee house continues to offer Coffee Appreciation sessions to share their passion for the quintessential bean and to educate caffeine-loving Queenslanders on the ‘Torrefazione to the table’ process.
The merlocoffee Bowen Hills Torrefazione will be hosting a Coffee Appreciation Breakfast from 7:30am on the first Wednesday of each month; the Fortitude Valley Torrefazione will be also be hosting a Coffee Appreciation Breakfast from 7:30am on the first Friday of each month; and the Gold Coast merlocoffee headquarters at the Ferry Road Markets in Southport will be hosting a Coffee Appreciation Brunch from 9am on the first Tuesday of each month.

In addition, the Fortitude Valley Torrefazione is also hosting Factory Tours by appointment. The Factory Tour Program is hosted at the Torrefazione (roasting house) at McLachlan Street in Fortitude Valley and is by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The cost is a minimum of $30 and six people at $5/head, with a maximum of 20 people. To book contact 07 3257 0465.

Learn Teppanyaki
Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa are back for a second year in a row and this time, they’re tipped to be filled with even more teppan tricks and delightful delicacies.

Hosted by the Resort’s Executive Chef, Andrew Fraser, the next strictly limited cooking class will be held on Saturday, March 21.
Showcasing Japan’s flamboyant and fresh cooking style, guests will be intrigued as the talented teppanyaki chefs cook up a storm on the hot plate right in front of them.
Seats are strictly limited for the special, live demonstration which runs from 11am until 2pm in the award-winning Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, located on Level Three of the Resort. Priced at $95 per person, the class includes a live interactive cooking demonstration, lunch and wine to complement the dishes
Head to www.marriott.com.au for more info.

Ramsay for All
If having lunch or dinner with Gordon Ramsay wasn’t enticing enough, the Hyatt Regency at Sanctuary Cove has added a tasty sweetener to the deal offering special rate’s for people attending any of the three lunches or dinners Ramsay is hosting at the Hyatt from June 12th to 14th. Rates start at just $305 per room per night for a Deluxe Guest room including full breakfast and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine.
Gordon Ramsay will host three lunches and three dinners in the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove Ballroom on June 12, 13 and 14. Tickets will be available through Ticketek on 13 2849 from Wednesday 25 February, 2009.
For reservations or more information, call 13 1234 or visit www.sanctuarycove.regency.hyatt.com.

Tastes of the Tropics
This rare food festival hosts four internationally acclaimed Australian chefs at one event. Perhaps even rarer is a private enterprise hosting a series of cooking-based events with a stellar lineup of high profile celebrity chefs.
The Elandra Resort Mission Beach is proud to present ‘Tastes of the Tropics’ a series of professional, highly crafted and informative cooking events, hosted by Australia’s top chefs.
For $2700 per person ($2500 twin share) – Tastes of the Tropics Event includes 5 night’s accommodation , 3 intimate cooking experiences with the celebrity chef including gala dinner, 1 cooking demonstration/ experience with The Elandra’s head chef, 1 gourmet meal per day as part of the cooking experiences/ events, daily a la carte breakfast, 1 hour in-room massage, 1 Yoga class, Great Barrier Reef boat trip, off-site dinner in the rainforest and more. To book a Tastes of the Tropics package
call 1800 079 090 or 0428 993 010 or visit www.elandraresorts.com

Hinterland Symphony
A food connoisseur’s fantasy will come to life as Ruffles Lodge and Spa prepares for the ultimate weekend of indulgence on Friday 3rd and 4th April 2009.
Known for its spectacular natural surrounds and gorgeously-appointed rooms, Ruffles Lodge & Spa will unveil its first ever wine and food event. Offering the ultimate in foodie experiences, the weekend will showcase Symphony Hill Wines matched to a seven course degustation dinner on Saturday night featuring fine food prepared by Ruffles Chef, Nerys Kinnaird.
Further information on Ruffles Lodge and Spa and to arrange your weekend foodie escape go to www.ruffleslodge.com.au.

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