‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

We had still NOT been to a winery. In the 11 months following our Sea Change, we hadn’t as much as suggested it, researched it, let alone GONE to one.

Then, Father’s Day was approaching. And this coincided with an online post I had read, that mentioned kid-friendly wineries on the Peninsula.

What?! Our time had come.

And so it was. Hickinbotham was the first one I called off of the kid-friendly list, and they were more than happy to have us for their 11am set lunch on Father’s Day. Hubbie didn’t know where we were going, and even though it wasn’t the nicest of Dad’s days, as we arrived amidst the cold, wind and occasional rain…

… He still smiled at the surroundings. He was really pleased.

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

We were in fact, the first ones to arrive that Sunday. We were seated immediately, and had a good look around the restaurant, taking it all in.

Though restaurant wasn’t quite the word. Sure, the tables were set up nicely, paper table-clothed and all. There was a long bar in the middle of the room, and behind that what appeared to be a tasting area, a large shed/warehouse-type room, with barrels evident from where we sat.

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Wooden tones were everywhere. But this wasn’t a renovated, wooden-accented place. No, this wood had been there for years.

And years and years.

Because that’s what this place was, authentic. You could tell that you had stepped back in time, not too far, but far enough to understand that a winery had been there in place for a long time, way before people started coming in to dine. It was old, vintage, and polished.

There were two other seating areas I could see… one immediately to the front of us, that was completely covered, and another off to the side, which too was sheltered, yet opened up into the greenery outside.

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Shotgun outdoor area on a sunny day. Just putting it out there.

Since it was 11am, and a tad before our usual eating time of 1pm, we decided to just opt for the 2 course menu, rather than do the 3 courses.

First up, some drinks please.

A glass of 2016 Pinot Gris for me; and a pint (ALL the men there were soon getting pints) of Hix Pilsener, Silver medal Royal Sydney Show 2014

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Can I just say it was super exciting to be drinking beverages from the local wine/beer-makers there themselves. We were giddy, and although we had ordered our mains, the alcohol went to our heads and suddenly we were hungry!

Baby girl had received some crackers and dips as part of her kids package that day

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And we all kind of dipped into that one (thanks Pinot Gris)

By this stage the place was filling up. There were Dads galore, and the waitresses were wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day on arrival.

The fireplace had been lit, and was getting stoked, but the fire just wasn’t taking, so the group of people seated beside us took it upon themselves to re-stoke it.

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It was a beautiful old fireplace, and the warmth that emanated from it was very much required that day.

Soon, the food!

I had ordered the succulent baked chicken breast, kipflers with bacon and thyme, garden greens, chicken jus

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Hubbie had ordered the 250gm grass fed scotch fillet, dauphine fat chips, baby sprouts with Portobello, béarnaise

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And Baby girl had the pleasure of her all-time fave dish… pasta

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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(Oh woe is me. Back to the time where baby girl actually had sauce with her pasta).

Baby girl happily lapped up her pasta while she watched other children playing with toys on youtube. Of course.

Hubbie was pleased with his steak and how it was cooked, but questioned whether it was in fact, 250gm… otherwise he enjoyed it, yet he left behind a fat chip for me to enjoy… oh my. It was thick and creamy, and all I can say is dauphine chips are the BOMB. They were that GOOD.

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

And I loved my meal. It was comforting and warm, the chicken was most certainly succulent, and the jus? Amazing. I dragged my vegies and chicken ALL through the jus, trying my best to soak up every last drop. Yum.

We were very content, but what is a special occasion without dessert? We had spent a good deal of the past month hibernating, accepting and allowing the cold to pass, and also hoping that once that most-coldest of cold seasons was over, baby girl would also be more mature, and happily sit with us as we dined out throughout the Peninsula, ALL through Spring and Summer.

She is well-acquainted with the phone though, so…. say what you like. We were ALL happy then.

We ordered coffees too, and then it all started to arrive:

I had a cap, while Hubbie had a STRONG, heart-shaped latte:

Baby girl had a babycino accompany her kids dessert, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, marshmallows and snakes

Hubbie ordered the Passionfruit tart, burnt meringue, coulis, clotted cream

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And I had Jo’s stunning chocolate mousse cake, pistachio crunch, two types of raspberry

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Firstly, can I say, when I hear the words ‘chocolate mousse’ my head almost swivels Exorcist-style. True story. I enjoyed the light, yet decadent mousse component, and the base was most definitely crunchy… not sure if the combination worked completely, I understood the textures being in contrast to one another… but sometimes you just need some cream alongside your chocolate-whatever. I appreciated it nonetheless. I had to bypass my 3 raspberries sitting a-pretty on top, ever since that fateful day when I ate a whole punnet of raspberries one night, and then felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable, went to the loo, and promptly threw up the whole thing. I then proceeded to feeling better instantly, and the incident was so bizarre I actually question whether it in fact happened or I just dreamt it all…

But I think, I have developed some kind of aversion to raspberries, or whatever thing it is inside them that irritates my stomach. I would have risked the 3 if we hadn’t had any other plans that day… but we did have plans, and I wasn’t going to ignore history/a bad dream and risk running to the bathroom.

Hubbie thought his passionfruit tart was ok… I think he is not a tart-y, or burnt meringue kinda guy, just saying. He is also an incredibly fussy guy. Just saying.

Baby girl enjoyed mixing every component of her dessert together until it developed into a gooey creamy mess, but funnily enough did not like the marshmallows then (she LOVES marshmallows) and until I tried one, I realised why – they were incredibly cold, either from the ice cream proximity, or what I believe, sitting in a fridge for a while? I otherwise thought it the perfect dessert for a child, just a colourful combination of bright and simple sweet things that children love.

We were now very full, with the added assistance of our caffeine hits, and decided it was time to pay.

Outside the rain had ceased, and now the sun glared down from in-between the clouds. Hubbie and baby girl ran around the yard, mucking about… and then it was time to go.

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Food: 8/10. I loved my chicken, and other components were amazing too. I would love to go there when there is not a set menu, to see how they go preparing and cooking food ‘on the fly.’

Coffee: 7.5/10. It was pleasant, not too strong, and smooth.

Ambience: Incredibly cosy. Honestly, I felt a bit like I was at my uncle’s old house down Warburton way. The abundant wood and fireplace gave it a real homely feel, and seeing the greenery and trees throughout the windows linked us to the outside, making it feel quite idyllic, and very appropriate, for a winery.

People: Being such a family day, there were families of all kinds EVERYWHERE. Young families, old families, families with extended family, smaller intimate families, and many kids too, which was further testament to the review I had read online.

Staff: They were incredibly attentive, polite and friendly, really fine service.

Price: $161. This consisted of mine and Hubbie’s 2 course set menus – both at $60 a head. Baby girl’s set 3 course meal was $29.50. Throw in some home-grown alcoholic drinks, coffees, and voila. Price is justified. Or is it? I think baby girl’s set price was on the upside… and if you break down each of our main and dessert meals to $30 each, I think it is STILL too high. But it is a winery, and so, you reach out into your handbag and pull out the dough (or in my case, the Eftpos card).

Advice: Maybe on weekends it would be best to call ahead in case they are busy, however there was an ample amount of seating in many areas, and they were all covered, so risking it shouldn’t do too much damage either.

In a nutshell: Although it was pricey, and Hubbie didn’t rave about his main meal, he absolutely loved the winery, and the beer. I too love the entire place. Being not too far from our house, with Spring on our doorstep (any day now Melbourne weather), we will definitely come back again. We’ve already planned to sit somewhere outside, in the afternoon sunshine, sipping on some lovely local produce and gazing at the views and water up ahead, while baby girl just RUNS with glee.

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

Hickinbotham Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Baby girl says the darndest things #3

I find it fascinating watching baby girl grow. To learn, to develop, and most of all to see what comes out of her mouth.

It is a popcorn-worthy show ALL on its own.

Like tonight for instance. I was drying her hair after her bath, and the topic somehow moved to work and money. Serious stuff for a 5 year-old, so my ears perked up when she made the observation –

“Mummy, you don’t have to work tomorrow, because you have enough money.”

?? Well I’ll be damned. So, I had a choice in whether I could go or not based on my account? So I asked –

“What about Tato? Why is he working? Does he not have enough money?”

“Nope.”

LOL. But that wasn’t even all of it. I thought we were done with the topic until I tucked her in and kissed her goodnight. She randomly popped up with –

“Mummy, you don’t have to work, you have a credit card!”

OH MAN!

She shrugged her shoulders and smiled, like it was the simplest and most obvious of solutions to keep Mum home with her forever.

I sat on the bed, and proceeded to tell her in kid-terms, that using credit cards was actually not the best idea, and better reserved for emergencies.

But, can you imagine that for a moment? If that was the case, NO ONE WOULD WORK!

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Photo by Rebelsaurus (Katie Harp) on Unsplash

 

 

Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

We had trekked over to San Remo for a couple of nights during mine and baby girl’s birthday period. While café-ing out in the main strip one windy Tuesday, Hubbie asked the nice guy delivering coffees out to everyone, “can you give us a good dinner recommendation?”

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

He mentioned a few more, but his description of the place and the food it delivered won us over, and we planned to book ahead. Upon driving back to our accommodation a short while later, we looked at the area in which it was meant to be, as directed to us by kind waiter.

And suddenly, we were time lapsed to 5 years earlier.

Because we had been there before. Pre-food blogging days. Pre-baby days. Pre-Sea change days.

It felt like a long time ago, and yet the memory of that visit was strong because we had sat outside on a warm Summer’s evening, had enjoyed a delicious drink and dessert, and snapped an amazing selfie of ourselves, and let’s face it when you get one where you BOTH look great, it’s immediately one for the memory bank (and photo album – old school, yes).

It made total sense to be returning to this restaurant 5 years on.

Although things were a bit different. We were with baby girl. We absolutely HAD TO sit inside. And we absolutely had to, because we almost didn’t make the drive over from San Remo to Cowes, it was raining that much.

We burst in through the doors a bit sprinkled on from our mad dash from the car, and chose a table alongside the wall with booth to sit at, alongside another couple who were entering at the time.

I honestly can’t speculate at what had changed in the 5 years or so that passed between our visits. I couldn’t remember. All I remember was we had been seated at some kind of outdoor alfresco area, so the interior – I wouldn’t have a clue.

Now it was warm, illuminated by warm and sparkly lights, and the ample seating and ambience made the setting quite refined. However the orange-red wall brought it a playful burst of colour, taking it closer to its ‘Relaxed Casual Dining’ web site tag.

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I was happy when they brought over some pencils and colouring-in paper for baby girl, as there is never such a thing as ‘too much distraction’ when a toddler is out with you.

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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Hubbie got a VB, and I got a glass of the ‘Dance with the Devil’ Cab Sav

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Of course we had to try the appetiser of the restaurant name, didn’t we? I’ve been getting right into olives as an entry to main meal, ever since we started getting them at Manhattan. They were great and the bread was lovely to dip into the oily concoction and soak up all the goodness.

It was pretty quiet, being a midweek Winter’s night and all, but happily for us (those noise levels are preferred to be always loud in case a certain toddler decides vocal aerobics are necessary) some more groups of people soon came in, though at the most there was still only 4 or 5 groups that whole night.

Baby girl’s meal of spaghetti bolognaise immediately followed the olives

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And then soon after ours came. Mine was the pumpkin risotto with goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket

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While Hubbie had the 300g scotch fillet, with potatoes, broccolini, and creamy peppercorn sauce

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So baby girl loved her spaghetti, though it may have been hard to notice since I literally had to spoon-feed it to her – as I said before, distractions. She was quiet, so it was good. Even Hubbie and I took fork stabs at it occasionally since it did look so delish. Sometimes it’s the simple things… like taste-testing from your child’s plate.

My risotto was sensational. Rich, but not too rich. It was quite liquid-y when it arrived, leaving Hubbie with a puzzled look on his face as it was brought to the table, but this is why I am the food blogger and not him. There were pumpkin pieces in there that brought it texture, the liquid made it moorish and smooth, and the complimentary tastes of goats cheese and rocket were YUM. Did I mention anything with rocket added is immediately made better? Well there it is.

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

So I loved mine. Hubbie enjoyed his too, and that in itself is a God-send. Angels sing! The meat was cooked exactly to his liking, and it was tender too. All hail Fig and Olive.

Since it was our last night on that side of town before we were due back home the next day, and also as I already mentioned, ‘birthday month,’ I had to have dessert – whether I was full or not.

I was kinda full. But it would fit, I assured myself.

Hubbie went with our old holiday fave, the Affogato, and got himself a shot of Frangelico in addition on the side.

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He ended up pouring all the coffee over the ice cream, which he immediately regretted since he and I could not then actually taste the coffee on its own. Oh well, it still tasted good.

I went for the warm chocolate fondant – chocolate sauce, crumble and vanilla ice cream – because really, how does warm and melted chocolate NOT sound good on a cold Winter’s night?

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And baby girl was more than content with her vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping

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My dessert was oozing with thick melted chocolate, so my heart naturally followed.

I enjoyed it very much, and the chocolate crumble, was a really lovely addition to break away from the gooey-ness of it all. Vanilla ice cream to lessen the sugar-rush impact. Yes.

We had been first to arrive, and almost a couple of hours later, we were last to leave. We paid our bill, said our byes, and hurried back to the car, to drive through the rain once again.

Food: 8.5/10. The standard was there as it was years ago, and whether or not a change of ownership has occurred, I don’t care. It was wonderful. Dreaming of that risotto.

Coffee: Since it was had alongside the liqueur and ice cream, it was hard to ascertain on its own, other than to note that it was strong, so I can’t give a proper score here.

Ambience: Quiet and refined, though there was a casual element to it too.

Staff: Professional and friendly, and helpful when it came to our main orders.

People: There was only a handful that night: an older couple; a group of tourists from out-of-town; and another group of 3 that I can’t remember, other than to note they were near us… a real mixed bunch.

Price: $129 for 3 mains, an entrée, and 3 desserts alongside some drinks. On the money.

Advice: Perhaps book ahead on the weekend in warmer months/holiday season to avoid disappointment. Eat the risotto.

In a nutshell: We really enjoyed this place, and being the destination of fond memories, we will definitely be back. It has something for everyone, and next time we will be back, basking in the sunshine, or basking in its interior orange glow…

Either way, it is sure to be warm. It’s definitely a place I would love to revisit, but I won’t wait 5 years next time 😉

Fig & Olive at Cowes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Spring Flower Festival of Silvan

Is it coincidence, or simply careful planning by the seasons, that there are an abundance of tulips ready to view and appreciate in Silvan come the September school holiday period?

How is it, that it is so perfectly timed? Tulips are planted before the colder months, and Spring-time seekers, (and those on school holidays) get to reap the rewards of the superbly bulbed flower?

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I have wanted to go to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival for a long time. I was fascinated by the story of the couple from Holland by the surname Tesselaar, and how they had planted tulips in their Silvan property long after first settling in Melbourne, after the outbreak of World War 2.

 

It is a common story to me, at least, the background is. A couple with a dream, a wish for a better life and hope for the future, leave their homeland behind to find opportunity elsewhere… my parents did this too, only they didn’t end up with hundreds of thousands of tulips across a 25-acre property, with tourists traveling from far and wide to witness their floral beauty!

It is certainly a fairy tale story. The couple’s acreage attracted so many passersby over the years, that they eventually opened their farm to eager eyes for a coin donation… it has evolved to the huge floral attraction that it is today, with people travelling from all over the country (I saw the interstate license plates with my own eyes!) to see the tulips in wondrous bloom.

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Baby girl and I attended the tulip festival in the first week of the school holidays, and it coincided with the ‘superhero week!’ What is ‘superhero week’ you may ask? Well all I can ascertain is that PJ Masks were in town, and they got them on board plus added in a few more kiddie activities to make it ‘superhero’-like!

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The great thing about this festival, is that it is so versatile. Superhero week becomes ‘Get Active’ week (Mon 1st – Thurs 4th October), and the weekends have their own special themes, with the one just passed being the ‘Food Wine and Jazz weekend,’ and the next one (Fri 5th – Sun 7th October) being the Irish Weekend.

There is sooo much to do, and it ain’t all tulips either. As already noted, the event occurs over the school holidays, though it is longer than two weeks, and as an adult visiting with kids, you can be assured they will be kept busy! The main stages have constantly-changing entertainment, there are roving princesses, workshops where you can create sand art, learn how to drum… then there are reptile displays, a petting zoo, face painters, and did I mention, the tractor ride?

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Check out my SmikG facebook page for the super-cool video. Hey, as the tractor jumped forward in its start-up around the expansive tulip field, even the adults shrieked in giddy excitement alongside the kids. True story. It probably fits about, oh, 20 people, and lasts all of 5 minutes, if that much, as it does an upside down U shape around the field. It is a heap of fun, the kids could have cared less as we went past the tulips, instead getting excited by the open-air and opportunity to wave at other tulip-viewers outside of the tractor, and meanwhile the adults just took it all in, appreciating the beauty, and revelling in the happy shouts of glee from their offspring.

You HAVE TO DO IT!

Toilets, food and drink are a plenty. Dutch-style cuisine, of Poffertjes, or as you and I may call them, ‘mini pancakes,’ are a must, and The Kibbeling Express, a Dutch-themed fish and chip shop also prominently features in the grounds. But never fear, if none of that tickles your fancy, there are your other cuisines, of Mac and cheese, hamburgers, scones, gozleme, spuds, and of course…

ICE CREAM!

:):):)

It was a wonderfully lazy and self-indulgent 20 minutes or so that baby girl and I spent licking our cones and cups in the sun.

There are opportunities to buy souvenirs, take home gardening tools, purchase your own seedlings, and did I mention the potted tulips?

I bought a pot for myself to take home, and actually have repotted them with purpose… to have them last a long time. I got a small leaflet with some tips on how best to keep them going on, but any decent gardening blog online will give you similar tips on extending the tulips life.

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The fairy shop is another cute place for the kids to enjoy, with little unicorns and fairy paraphernalia decorating the walls of the store. Just try leaving this place with your girl empty-handed. I know, as we now own a magical glittery pen.

:/

The effects of keeping your child entertained while on holiday, I know.

And, the whole reason for going, the ‘piece de resistance’ if you will, of the actual event?

Why, the Tulips of course.

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They surround the festival, however the major drawcard sits amidst the large field with rows upon rows of different coloured bulbs. A large windmill sits at the far end of the field, and various works of art are spotted throughout, to provide your eye with an alternative to the wondrous colour before you… not like you need it, but it is nice to take a break and look at something else interesting.

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This festival is huge, so take precaution when deciding when to go. The cars just keep coming, there are parking people organising where you can park, and then depending on what time you arrive and where you have parked, there will most likely be a short walk for you to make, so if with littlies that get easily bored or tired, you may need to take a pram (or your shoulders will feel the weight!)

By no means should any of this dissuade you – it is a festival for both young and old, with plenty to do and see that will interest people of ALL ages! In my eyes, it is actually a pretty perfect family day out 🙂

 

The deets!

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival is a September – October annual event, coinciding with the bloom of the flowers (and the school holidays!) Check their website for actual dates and theme-specific weeks and weekends.

https://tulipfestival.com.au/

Their address is 357-359 Monbulk Road Silvan.

It runs every day for about a month of the festival’s duration.

Getting there by car takes some time if you’re from Melbourne or even on the other side of it… but once you are in the Dandenong Ranges, man it is a beautifully scenic drive. You could easily make a day of it, or two or three (or a mini-break!) as there are some quaint and exquisite village-like places that you travel through to get there… Sassafras, Kallista, Monbulk… You could be forgiven for wanting to stop about 6 times before reaching your destination, so tranquil and serene is your drive and environment. The views are always so magical in the Ranges, and the day we drove there I had to contain my excitement and nostalgia in going through parts of the world that I had visited with Hubbie many times before, as I have by myself too.

Prices:

Adults are $28, Concession holders are $24, and Children 16 and under are Free!

(Which is why it is such a kid-happy place!)

RULES

Yes, I even have rules. Well their not just mine, the festival insists, with a smiley policeman cut-out and everything… baby girl observed it too…

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Please, for the love of God, KEEP OFF THE FLOWERS. It may seem obvious to most, but most people would not jump behind a rope where there is a sign of a person jumping over a rope with a BIG LINE THROUGH IT.

I saw some people disobey the sign for the sake of the perfect photo, and man oh man did I wish for some Dutch police to take them away and whip them with Poffertjes until they bled like strawberry jam… for the sake of respecting the Tulips, take your photos in front of the rope and not behind it… it is there for a reason after all.

And look! What do you know, a beautiful photo that wasn’t taken while standing on precious bulbs.

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Face palm. Some people.

Tips:

Be prepared to be out ALL DAY. That means comfy shoes, an easy and light bag, and water/snacks of some kind. Yes you can buy it all there, but you don’t wanna be running off to the food trucks when you are in the middle of a field of tulips now, do you?

They have a car park, AND an overflow car park. I suspect I was in the overflow carpark, and that was on a Thursday of the school holidays. My point is… come as early as you can, or try to avoid weekends and public holidays. If the car parks are full, they suggest you drive out to one of the quaint towns for a bit and then come back to try again. This seems absurd due to the sheer number of cars that clearly can fit there… but as I said again, it was a Thursday. And it was practically packed.

Bring your hat, sunscreen and sunnies. It can get a bit dusty, so closed-toe shoes may be the way to go.

And lastly, the MOST IMPORTANT word of advice… take home some tulips. You won’t regret it, trust me 😉

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