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48 Hours at High Country Harvest

Ashleigh Went

Winter is coming.

Although, truth be told, it feels like it’s very much here. While I truly love Canberra, occasionally I do crave a getaway – and my usual favourite coastal getaway just doesn’t carry the same appeal that it did in the height of summer.

If you’ve been craving a mini vacay, now is the perfect time to escape to the countryside – specifically, Victoria’s High Country, where the High Country Harvest is underway and running until the 21st of May.

From Beechworth, Benalla and Bright to Glenrowan, Falls Creek, Mansfield, Milawa and the King Valley (to name but a few) now is a good excuse as ever to taste your way around the High Country’s villages, farms and wineries. With 53 delicious events on offer, we got to experience 48 blissful hours of High Country Harvest.

Friday

3pm: check in at Lindenwarrah at Milawa

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Our arrival at Lindenwarrah set our trip off to a beautiful start. The property has a stately elegance, with manicured gardens and serene decorative pools set against the backdrop of a stunning vineyard. Modern day luxury often translates to compact and minimal, but Lindenwarrah has a unique kind of provincial luxury.

Our room was massive, with a king size bed and French doors leading onto a communal balcony with a view that stretched from the vineyard to the distant mountaintops.

lindenwarrah view

We would have loved to have had more time to explore the grounds, including the lounge area with its fireplace, the various reading nooks set within the corridors and of course the swimming pool and sauna. However, we had the pressing issue of a luxurious dinner at the neighbouring Brown Brothers winery to attend to.

6.30pm: High Country Harvest Grand Opening Dinner at Brown Brothers Milawa

The Harvest’s Grand Opening Dinner was held inside the historic barn where Brown Brothers first wines were made, and had been completely transformed: under the glow of glittering fairy lights, long communal tables had been set with autumnal touches while a live band performed next to a prosecco bar.

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The menu sounded spectacular but tasted even better: Brown Brother’s hat-winning Executive Chef, Doug Elder presented the menu to guests, introducing local producers who were scattered among the crowd, including Garden in the Forest Organic Chestnuts from Standley, Tolpuddle Goat’s Milk, Milawa Bread and Cheese, and more.

Every last morsel of the evening was delicious – a lunch or dinner at Patricia’s Restaurant (the fine dining offering at Brown Brothers Milawa) is definitely on the agenda for our next visit.

Saturday

8.30am: Breakfast at Lindenwarrah Restaurant Merlot

In my opinion, breakfast buffets are one of life’s greatest pleasures, and this was no exception. I filled my plate to the brim with fresh poached eggs, bacon, toast, beans and veggies, and then went back for bircher muesli and a croissant. Given that we had a full day of eating ahead of us, I probably overdid it a bit (don’t judge me) – but when the options are this tempting it’s hard to say no.

10.15: Tolpuddle Goat Cheese & Farm Foods

Cheese is undoubtedly my favourite food on the planet. This, plus the giddy excitement that comes from the possibility of meeting baby goats, set the bar very high for this particular activity.

We arrived at Tolpuddle Farm to be greeted by Donovan Jacka. Having moved from Melbourne with his family a few years prior, Donovan’s passion for everything on the property, from the cheese making to the welfare of the animals, made this visit unforgettable.

We got a tour of the Farm including the cheese making rooms and the cellar in which the cheeses are aged and stored, and even got to help make some cheese (as well as getting to take some home – WIN!). Next Donovan took us out to meet the goats, where I got to cuddle the most darling little baby goat.

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Just when I didn’t think the trip could get any better, Donovan took us out to meet the piglets that he purchased as a birthday present for his wife Melissa. While I had expected small pink piglets, these babies – even at seven months – were enormous and covered in black hair. They were very cute though, and we watched as they gleefully hoovered down buckets of whey.

For the High Country Harvest, Tolpuddle put together The Art of Cheese, an immersive experience where guests begin with goat milking and follow the entire cheese making process, with a lunch in the gardens including (of course) fresh cheese and matching wines.

11am: Beechworth

Each country town has its own special brand of allure, but Beechworth is particularly charming. It’s an idyllic little town, with sweet boutiques and food offerings at every turn. If you have kids (or even if you don’t) it’s worth checking out the incredible toy store, filled with quirky finds and vintage toys.

12pm: Foraged and Found Harvest Menu lunch at The Ox & Hound Bistro

The Ox & Hound have put together a special menu for the Harvest Festival, with a focus on local produce, including matched local wines.

The entire meal was amazing, but the main was a stand out: cold smoked Harrietville trout using pine needles, baby beetroot, saffron milk cap mushrooms and a bois boudran dressing. Each element of the dish was fresh and flavoursome.

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After polishing off dessert (soft pavlova with Beechworth quince and chestnuts – divine) we left with full bellies and smiles, excited for our next activity.

1.30pm: The Lost Art – Muffin Making at Beechworth Honey

James and I are both big foodies who love to cook, so the fact that we go to head along to Beechworth Honey for a cooking class made us very happy indeed.

Beechworth Honey’s bee school is a magical place – it has a working beehive, a café serving all things honey and a very impressive kitchen. The class was so much fun – we really enjoyed getting our hands dirty and learning all about the lost art of English muffin-making.

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While our dough proofed, we also were treated to a honey tasting masterclass, where we were taught how honey is made and tasted a selection of the 36-odd honey varieties available at Beechworth Honey. We ended the class with an afternoon tea of warm fresh muffins with butter and honey and left with bags full of muffins to take home.

4pm: Check in at Yackandandah Motor Inn

We made the 20-minute drive to Yackandandah and arrived at the Yackandandah Motor Inn. For a very reasonable price, the Motor Inn has everything you need for a comfortable stay, plus some lovely country hospitality.

7.00pm: Food for Thought dinner at Saint Monday

Strolling down the main street of Yackandandah, we spotted hurricane lanterns with flickering candle lights and entered Saint Monday. Café by day, Saint Monday had been turned into the perfect spot for a romantic candlelit dinner.

It’s very obvious that the Saint Monday team put an extraordinary amount of care and love into constructing their Food for Thought menu. Each element of the dish has a local connection or special story behind it, from the saffron milkcap mushrooms foraged in the eerie pines of a nearby forest, to the rosemary bought to the café by community members in exchange for coffee.

The dishes themselves were simple – each course had a vegan and vegetarian option, which we shared between us. The dessert was easily our favourite, particularly the Mont Blanc squares with Gundowring vanilla bean ice cream, chestnut swirl and caramel made from whey, a by-product of Saint Monday’s house made ricotta.

Saint Monday Cae

Source: Saint Monday Cafe

Sunday

9am: Breakfast at Pickled Sisters

After a blissful night’s sleep, we drove to Rutherglen to the Pickled Sisters Café at Cofield Wines. Breakfast was exactly what we were after: delicious, hearty and enjoyed in the sunshine. I had the French toast topped with bacon and melted Milawa cheese, while James loved his trout and scrambled eggs on toast topped with sour cream.

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11am: Creative Campfire Cooking experience at Jones Winery & Vineyard

The lovely Mandy Jones, winemaker at Jones Winery & Vineyard and Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, took us through an incredible menu that included beef bourguignon (with dark chocolate!), potatoes, Spanish style rotisserie chicken, smoked fish and more. Each dish was cooked on a campfire, with guests participating in the cooking process.

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After the class concluded, Jones Winery staff set up a table amongst the vines and we indulged in our campfire creations, as well as a selection of Jones’ wines. The meal was beautiful and it was a magical way to spend the last hours of our North East Victorian adventure.

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The only thing that could have improved our enchanting weekend at the High Country Harvest Festival is more time. There are so many incredible events on offer that you’re guaranteed to find one that suits your fancy – whether you’re a foodie, a craft beer and spirits fan, or an adventure lover.

The author stayed as a guest of Tourism North East, Visit Victoria, Indigo Shire, the Rural City of Wangaratta and individual High Country business operators. 

 

 

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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