Lunching in the Lockyer Valley

Last week I shared some serious #foodporn from the first day of my two-day staycation to preview next month’s Regional Flavours at South Bank.

If you missed it, you’ll want to click here.

Day two of our foodie adventure kicked off with coffee and fresh pastries at Merlo where barista Fritha had us swirling, sniffing and spitting finely ground roast coffee beans while giving us the low down on cupping.

“There are no wrong answers in cupping and it’s something you can teach yourself. I like to find a memory and associate a smell with it; chocolate always reminds me of Christmas morning while floral notes remind me of my birthday,” she said.

As for coffee snobs?

“Drink your coffee however you want; it’s meant to be enjoyed, not a test.”

Merlo Coffee will be hosting cupping demonstrations on both Saturday and Sunday at Regional Flavours, and you’ll be able to get your caffeine fix from their pop-up coffee carts outside The Courier-Mail Piazza.

With caffeine and pastries on board, we took the advice of the Pet Shop Boys to ‘Go West’ and headed to the picturesque Lockyer Valley, a rich area of farmland is responsible for producing the most diverse range of fruit and vegetables of any area in Australia.

In fact, the Lockyer Valley produces 90 per cent of Australia’s winter vegetables, with 100 semi-trailer loads leaving the area each day.

It’s also home to boutique chocolatiers and cheese makers, a winery, delicatessens and a lavender farm.

Our first stop was at Schulte’s Meat Tavern, a family owned butcher and delicatessen which has called Plainland home for more than 60 years, to collect supplies for lunch and dinner and meet up with well-known chef and Lockyer Valley ambassador, Alastair McLeod.

From there, we were back in our cars (unleashing our carpool karaoke skills) as we headed for Bauer’s Organic Farm where all my lunch dreams came true when we discovered a long table had been set up under a gum tree.

It was here were met Rob Bauer and Trudy Townson. They’re spud farmers and some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

Rob’s great grandparents Karl and Maria Bauer first settled at Mount Sylvia in 1885, and their original 100 acre ‘selection’ has been owned by Bauer’s ever since.

As we ate, Rob shared his story with us.

“When I first started growing spuds, I’d spray our potatoes every week or so with up to four or five different chemicals. That’s the way you were taught to do it—the same way my father did it.

“At that time there wasn’t really a market for organic produce but I felt that there wasn’t much future (literally) in doing it the chemical way.”

“Over a period of a few years, seven local farmers who were aged in their 50s and 60s died from cancer and leukaemia, likely caused by their high exposure to agricultural chemicals. My dad died in his 50s from leukaemia.

“I started to think about how it was done when my grandparents and great-grandparents farmed here; they didn’t use chemicals back then, they did it organically!

“Those poisons came in when I was a kid, after the Second World War

“Organic is nothing new, it’s just the way our ancestors farmed. It’s just pure, wholesome food.

“These days we grow spuds and we don’t use anything; we don’t even put fertilizer under them because we have some of the best soil in the world here in this valley.

“I had to get away from that; plus food tastes better when it’s grown without chemicals and we could all go organic, but people need to pay a little bit more for it because it takes longer to grow.”

What Brooke Wore 15 May 2016

After a few photos pretending to drive Rob’s tractor and with each of us armed with a freshly picked pumpkin, it was time to farewell Rob and Trude (until we meet again at Regional Flavours) and hit the road again.

Guests are welcome to visit when Rob celebrations the Harvest with a Seasonal Open Day on 31 July at Bauer’s Organic Farm, Mount Sylvia Road, Mount Sylvia. Entry is free.  

This time Katy and I kidnapped young Eddie from Portmanteau Press and subjected her to weird conversations, some intense 80s and 90s music and forced her to play a role in our carpool karaoke videos as we headed to Forrest Hill Farm Stall so Alastair could pick up more supplies for dinner.

Did I mention Alastair was cooking us a feast? Hell yes! I used to be a bit of a regular back in his Brett’s Wharf days, so my taste buds were rejoicing.

Watch out James Corden, we're coming to take over Carpool Karaoke.
Watch out James Corden, we’re coming to take over Carpool Karaoke.

What really captured my attention at Forrest Hill Farm Stall were the vibrant colours of their vegetables. There was no filter needed when it came to the photos because their produce was just THAT fresh.

After a stop at Holmwood Produce, a lavender farm (which you can read about here) we headed to our final destination, Branell Homestead at Laidley.
Due to our propensity to have a good old chat at every location, we didn’t pull in to the homestead until the sun had disappeared from the sky so we couldn’t appreciate just how beautiful it was until the following morning, but we could see the friendly cows who roamed outside our cabins and a hint of a lake out the front.

This fella was standing about one metre from the bedroom window!
This fella was standing about one metre from the bedroom window!

Alastair cooked a mouth-watering Calotte of beef with green olive and celery salsa, along with Grilled goats haloumi, roasted beetroot, dukkah and Hasselback potatoes.

If you’re keen to taste, try and buy drool-worthy fare, lovingly cultivated and prepared by the state’s best growers, wine makers and purveyors, head to the Producers Showcase at Regional Flavours.

Not only will you be able to pick up some great produce, but you’ll be able to talk to the producers including Bauer’s Organic Farm, Dunlop Apiaries, Emmo’s Fine Foods, Schulte’s, UB’s Farm Helidon and some of my Brisbane favourites, Kokopod and Bee One Third.

Editor’s note: I was a guest of Brisbane Marketing, Lockyer Valley Regional Council and the named venues for my Regional Flavours preview, however all opinions are my own.

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