When I decided to take a gnocchi-making lesson on Zoom, I wondered what my nonna would think. Would she be proud of my newfound interest in cooking? Curious about how others make her go-to special-occasion dish? Or betrayed that despite her many offers to teach me, I would now be learning to make the pillowy good stuff from a total stranger.
The 70-minute class is one of six new interactive online experiences guided by producers and businesses from Victoria’s High Country, an area in the north-east of the state known for its beauty, rich soil, vineyards and food.
The best thing about a weekend out of the city is often the little gems you discover along the way. High Country at Home hand-picks a few and brings them to you. Just book a class through the website; wait for your pack in the mail (postage is available Australia-wide – the cost varies depending on weight and location); and log on to learn, taste or relax. (There’s also an online marketplace that encourages shoppers to buy goods – such as olives, lollies, cheese, wine and beer – direct from local businesses.)
“All of the businesses and the people ... of the High Country would love to welcome you to visit our area and to experience [our] hospitality,” says Katrina Pizzini, cooking instructor and co-owner of Pizzini Wines in Whitfield. “At the moment we are doing it in every way that we can, but we just have so much more to share with you.”
The art of gnocchi-making with Katrina Pizzini
Pizzini has been teaching northern-Italian cooking at Pizzini Wines for a decade. The family-owned winery (temporarily closed) in the High Country’s King Valley wine region specialises in Italian varietals. It also has an on-site cooking school called A Tavola, which is Pizzini’s domain.
Her gnocchi-making Zoom class costs $165 and comes with an ingredient pack (delivered before the class) with everything you need to make potato gnocchi and two pasta sauces (napoli, and burnt butter and sage) from scratch. The pack also includes recipe cards and special equipment such as a potato ricer and a gnocchi board.
During the class, Pizzini tells us to boil the potatoes skin-on, only half submerged in water (so they don’t absorb excess moisture). She peels them once they’re slightly cooled and covers them with a tea towel to absorb the steam.
“It’s all about trying to keep the potato as dry as we possibly can so the amount of flour is kept to a minimum,” she says. I told my nonna that hack and she was impressed (she said she’s willing to test it out).
The pack also includes two bottles of Pizzini Wines – an arneis (a white varietal) and a sangiovese – to match with your creations or sip while you work.
Reed & Co’s Friday night cocktails
Reed & Co is a small distillery in Bright with its own bar and restaurant. Operations are on pause right now, but this 40-minute casual cocktail-making class lets you taste test some of the distillery’s spirits.
Bartender Adam Eaton leads the class, where you’ll learn how to make a Quarantini (a dry Martini), Negroni and Nightwalker (an Espresso Martini). Plus, he’ll talk you through the flavour profiles of each Reed & Co spirit.
The pack comes with three 100-millilitre pre-mixed cocktails, dried garnishes and a recipe card. But you’ll need your own glassware, ice cubes and a cocktail shaker (or Tupperware). The class costs $65 per person and runs for 30 to 40 minutes.
Before the Zoom treatment you’ll receive blended essential oils, body oil, body scrub, bath soak, herbal tea and a how-to manual (which includes instructions for manicures and pedicures too). The spa will also send a few hand-picked High Country eucalyptus leaves to remind you of the bush. The treatment costs $109 per person.
Bridge Road Brewers’ Beechy de Wilde tasting
Bridge Road Brewers is an old-timey hotel with its own craft-beer label. This class is a chance to taste the Beechy de Wilde, which is fermented in three separate barrels for a year with wild yeast from the Arodda, Giaconda and Sorrenberg vineyards.
The yeasts come from active chardonnay ferment and create three unique beers. You’ll get a fourpack to try, as well as a pre-release bottle of Arodda’s 2019 Chardonnay. Bridge Road’s Trevor Giacomelli and Arodda winemaker Adrian Rodda run the 45-minute session, which costs $90 per person.
You’ll get to taste four classifications of Rutherglen muscat and two barrel samples, before being guided through the blending process to create your own muscat with a flavour profile suited to your palate.
The experience pack has everything you’ll need for the 60-minute class, which costs $210 per person.
The 60-minute session, which costs $80 per person, includes a virtual look behind the scenes and teaches you how to taste test correctly (including which glassware to use, food matching and more). You’ll receive a range of barrel-aged beers to try, plus a bottle opener, glassware and a tasting card.
Postage for High Country at Home packages incurs an additional cost, which varies depending on weight and location – contact the organisers for more information.