Good regional produce and the culture of producer and purveyor that surrounds it is becoming far more than an idea and conversation around country Victoria. The town of Lorne, along the Great Ocean Road, is a living and breathing example of a community supporting local growers and producers wherever possible and a community consistently unearthing some incredible produce. We’ve listed some of the finest producers of good, fresh food in the region and named a couple of spots where you can sit down and enjoy it or stock up for a stint back in the city.
Apostle Whey Cheese
If you want to go and visit a producer, then Apostle Whey Cheese is open 10am–5pm, seven days a week and is a drive west of Lorne. Here you can have a look at the Benson family farm, where they milk Jersey and Friesian cows for their rich milk and then make the cheeses on the property. You can’t mistake the expression of place in the characteristic flavours of the cheese, and the varieties of cheeses are broad enough to suit most tastes. There’s the Apostle Whey crumble, which resembles a marinated feta (this is also available online) as well as a washed rind called The Grotto and Bolte’s Bonanza, a feisty blue vein.
Even if talking about jams isn’t your idea of a good day out, when you try the delicious product La Bassine are creating, you’ll want to join in the conversation. La Bassine was started in 2008 by Elisabeth Acheson-Thom who, after travelling the world and gathering recipes, turned her hand to preserve making. Her husband George helps with the marketing and selling of the jams at farmers markets but it’s Elisabeth who is in the kitchen creating jars of pear and vanilla jam, raspberry jam, as well as fruity, spiced chutneys. The beauty of the product is that Acheson-Thom uses very little sugar in her jams, really highlighting the natural sweetness of the fruit. La Bassine also have a jar return scheme, where they will give you a free jar of the flavour of your choice for every 12 empty jars you return to them at the farmers markets. Preserving fruit and the environment.
The increasing awareness around the treatment of beef in some countries overseas brings to light the importance of animal welfare and quality beef, reared and slaughtered in an intelligent and sensitive way, and this where we, as consumers, should be focussing. Otway Prime Beef are raising Angus and Hereford cattle for beef, but are more intent on the production and handling of the meat they supply to the area rather than the breeds they rear. This is a tender, earthy, complex product and while they don’t have facilities to accommodate visitors at their farm, you can order bulk packs of their meat online or find it at a selected range of shops and restaurants outlined on their website.
Unlike the perfect, standardised apples we see at the supermarket, Allenvale apples are organic, knobbly and beautifully individual in shape and look. One thing is for sure though: they’re uniformly delicious. There is an honesty box at the orchard and you can pick your own heirloom apple varieties and Nashi pears from February to May (season dependant). Even though it’s a little late in the year for that, this is a stunning stop and forms part of the Allenvale Mill Carpark–Phanthom Falls walk, in which you get the chance to actually walk through the paddocks and orchards of this property.
Otway Forest Shiitake
You can only find these extraordinary mushrooms in a handful of restaurants in Melbourne. These are grown in very small quantities but are so delicious they deserve a ‘watch this space’ mention. The majority of Shiitake mushrooms consumers buy and eat are raised in sawdust, but these beauties grow on hardwood logs and have an unctuous, meaty texture and a complexity on the palate that is thoughtful and reminiscent of the wood their grown on. Put Otway Forest Shiitake on your wish list and over time quantities will increase for us to enjoy.
If you’re in Lorne and want to buy some of these products, Lorne Greens is the produce store to visit. With a vast array of almost all-local produce and other quality goods, this is the place to visit to stock up on the way back to Melbourne.
Babalu Bar, Ovenhouse
Sacha Meier from Babalu, which is right next door to Lorne Greens, gives his menu a Spanish flourish with lots of tapas, raciones and paella using the produce around him whenever possible. He has cooking classes ‘for Ladies and Gentlemen’ through the winter months and is a vocal supporter of all things Lorne. Chef/owner of Lorne’s Ovenhouse, James Fuller, is another supporter of creating food using local produce wherever possible and his relaxed restaurant is home to casual, quality food.