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We're in Adelaide for Tasting Australia's annual food and wine celebration. Held every April, eager foodies are drawn from all over Australia to experience this extraordinary 10-day festival where restaurants, producers and caterers converge to put on an array of food and related events.
Our itinerary makes it sound blissfully easy, a little too easy. Like most tourists, we started our culinary journey with a leisurely stroll through South Australia's most-visited tourist attraction, the 150-year-old Central Markets located in the heart of Adelaide's eat street district.
The 0.8ha open courtyard is all under one roof, clamorous with cries of 250 food sellers all eager to share their knowledge and bounty of delights with an enthusiastic food-loving audience. But most striking were the aromas and smells of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, artisan cheeses, meats and smallgoods, breads and pastries guaranteed to excite the taste buds. All that marred our happiness was the fact that we could not take away the temptations set before us. For the lucky locals this marketplace is an integral part of city life with seasonal fresh produce reflected in the region's cuisine.
It's nearly 7pm on a warm autumn's evening and time to have some fun with some fabulous food as well. The DJ is entertaining the party-like crowd who are eating and queuing for a smorgasbord of possibilities served from stalls by some of the city's best restaurants. For an atmosphere of less frenzy and with high expectations we make our way to the long line of glasshouses all of which are decorated with imaginative flair and a hint of decadence.
The following morning we rise early for a chartered flight to Kangaroo Island with 40 other enthusiastic compatriots. After landing at the recently revamped Kingscote Airport we board a coach to be transferred for a long lunch at Sunset Food and Wine, a clifftop oasis located at the top of a hill with spectacular views overlooking Eastern Cove in Penneshaw.
The cuisine under the direction of resident chef Jack Ingram and guest chef Jacqui Challinor showed there is after all no master chef who can perform to the utmost with anything less than the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.
After swapping stories with our new-found friends for several hours it was time to reboard the coach and then stop off for a nightcap at Kangaroo Island Spirits, one of South Australia's most celebrated boutique spirit producers. Jon Lark guided us through his quirky cellar door with its diverse range of award-winning gin, whisky, vodka and liqueurs which we were urged to toss back at regular intervals.
Our Kangaroo Island interlude allowed us the realisation that the best of times and the best of food are often to be found at remote locations.
Welcome to McLaren Vale. A 40-minute leisurely drive south of Adelaide suburbia submits to a low swell of undulating vineyards dotted with the odd quaint cottage and rolling expanses of vines.
The gorges, flats and climate remind us of the winelands of Southern France.
Warm sunny days and gentle sea breezes off the Gulf of St Vincent temper the high temperatures of summer. First stop overlooking Encounter Bay is Victor Harbour. A heady combination of pine and sea spray this once-whaling town is a popular little seaside village boasting sun, surf, clear turquoise waters and stunning views.
After a picnic lunch we visit Gemtree Winery for wine tasting with a platter to match. Then off to The Cube at D'Arenberg Winery for another wine tasting and a guided visit through the museum. Often referred to as Willy Wonka's Factory or the Mad Hatter's House, the Cube is more than a tasting room but rather a place that cements McLaren Vale's reputation as not just a wine destination.
Today we are touring the Barossa with John Baldwin, a most hospitable, sometimes hilarious and charming guide and owner of Barossa Daimler Tours. John immediately understood why we wanted as much as we could get from this region so visits to Langmeil Winery, Powell and Son, Seppeltfield Gin Distillery and an unforgettable lunch at Vino Lokal by chef Ryan Edwards conveyed to us why this region has such a plethora of eating spots and Australia's most celebrated wines.
Back in the city, a must-do-experience is Adelaide's best known and favourite beach. A 20-minute tram ride from the city is Glenelg, Adelaide's premier seaside destination and home to some of South Australia's most expensive real estate. It is synonymous with white sandy beaches, wide ocean views and stunning sunsets, not to mention its vibrant restaurant and cafe brigade.
It's also worth building up an appetite for a walk along Gouger St, Adelaide's undisputed eat street and another great place to start a culinary tour. Greek, Italian and Asian communities have long had gastronomic influences in this centrally located area accessible by foot bringing a wealth of alfresco dining with its world-class restaurants, bars and cafes.
With so much to see and do Adelaide deserves more than a week. With all its culture, taste, art and beauty we visited all the sights, tasted some exceptional cellar doors and sampled some exquisite cuisine raising our glasses along the way.
As we fly out, the city in all its glory is revealed once again. With so much to see and do Adelaide deserves more than six days. No doubt about it.
Need to know
- Getting there: Air New Zealand has five direct flights from Auckland per week
- Places of interest: The Bradman Collection, Botanic Gardens, Colonel Light’s Lookout, Carrick Hill, Mount Lofty Summit, Ayres House, Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Art Gallery, St Peter’s Cathedral, Railway Museum, Adelaide Oval, Haigh’s Chocolates, National Wine Centre
- Tours: Barossa Daimler Tours www.barossadaimlertours.com.au
- Background reading: Adelaide a brief history, by Kathyn Gargett and Susan Marsden, South Australia Lonely Planet, by Denis O’Bryne
- Other information: South Australia Tourism Commission www.southaustralia.co.nz