Little Red Kitchen @ Bellingen during Camp Creative 2015

18 Jan

It’s Camp Creative time again, and there are so many delicious options for the evening meal in Bellingen that it is difficult to choose! We take the kids to The Little Red Kitchen. It is an ultra-relaxed venue, serving pizzas and locally made pasta. There are low-line tables and lounges where people can play cards. Couples sit in the windows.

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The pizzas come in just the right size for one person, and of course they come in bigger sizes too.

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I opted for Seafood-Mark’s Choice and Kemlo enjoyed The Fireball. Small pizza $17.90, large $28.90 in the gourmet range. The classic pizzas were less. The kids were happy with cheese pizza. Service very friendly and food fresh and tasty. Afterwards, we went for a stroll through the town. Bellingen is beautiful.

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We look forward to our next visit.

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We look forward to our next visit.

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Christmas Leftover Enchilladas

30 Dec

After the feasting, the fridge is full of leftover chicken, pork, turkey and a little beef. We are all sick of cold meat with salad, so the Christmas-baked meats are cut into little pieces and gently fried up with a little capsicum and Mexican seasoning.

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When the capsicum is softened and the meats blended with the spices, a couple of tablespoons of the mixture are placed on a burrito, rolled up and placed into a baking dish. When the baking dish is full of stuffed, rolled burritos, a jar of salsa is poured over them, topped with two handfuls of grated tasty cheese.

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Baked in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, easy peasy. Served with a green salad, sour cream and mashed avocado, even baby liked it!

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The Bookshops, Cafes and people of Umina and Ettalong

24 Jan

The bookshops and cafes of the Central Coast Peninsula have a strong sense of community about them. On the footpath outside the Ettalong Beach Hut is a bowl of water for passing dogs. This is not uncommon on the coast, where there are many beach and bayside walks to take – with or without the hound.

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The Ettalong Beach Hut is not a fancy eating place. The food is not haute cuisine and the plating would not pass muster on Masterchef, but the food is simple, well cooked, and cheap. My eggs benedict with salmon was only $11. It was a good balance of crisp spinach, fresh eggs, creamy salmon and sauce, without the unwanted wateriness that often accompanies eggs benedict. Also, I was relieved to see good old thin buttered toast on my plate instead of a carb-heavy slab of bread.

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My companion Kemlo ordered a cup of tea, and was delighted to receive a pot of leaf tea. Much better than hot water and a lonely teabag.

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Whilst we sat outside, a group of women were inside working on their beading project. The cafe seems to be a place where locals and visitors alike feel welcomed. Next door is Cooking the Books, a tardis-like second-hand bookshop which is definitely bigger on the inside. It has plenty of bestsellers, and a good children’s section. They also have a wide range of the old VHS tapes, and a ton of romances and westerns.

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Next stop – around the corner to Umina Beach and Rubys Cafe and Bookshop. The coffee was very good, and the books were interesting. There were some antiquarian books, lots of vinyl records, and other collectables.

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Rubys Cafe had a tempting array of baked goods – tarts of every flavour, chocolate in many forms, frittatas and filled turkish rolls.

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Across the street was the fabulous Book Bazaar, an old-fashioned bookshop selling brand new books. They had geeky stuff – Walking Dead comics, a Game of Thrones graphic novel, an original series Star Trek sticker book, a huge range of books new and old, and a brilliant selection of picture books. It was such a pleasure being able to touch and leaf through the books – you don’t have that tactile experience when shopping on Amazon.

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A constant stream of people came into the shop to enquire about particular titles they wanted, and there was a vibe of community and good service which seems to be the secret of the continued existence of this independent carbon-based bookshop.

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We enjoyed our morning of browsing, eating, drinking and book buying; savouring the feeling that you get when books, coffee and good food rub up against each other.

The OB @ Umina Beach

23 Jan

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A venerable old pub on the Central Coast, the OB teeters on the edge of being a Gastropub without toppling over. Formerly known as Lasseters, the eatery is always busy (a good sign in my experience).

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The OB has $10 specials on week nights. We went on Wednesday, & the special was the Seafood Basket. The fish was fresh & tasty, prawns lightly crisped. The chips were good – crisp & tasty. The OB is a good place for groups & kids. Lots of space, always friendly service. Gotta love the OB.

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The Tree Doctor of Bellingen

17 Jan

These two trees look alien and out of place. The bright green intricately veined leaves would make respectable covers for small round cafe tables. The fruits are green globes with interwoven, ever receding hearts. Hunter, one of the maintenance staff at Bellingen Primary School, identifies them as Ficus damaropsis, native to Papua New Guinea, two of only four specimens of this plant in Australia. They are spectacular, gorgeous trees. The School Principal, Graeme Ross, says they’re a nuisance. Those big leaves blocked the eaves in the spring rains, damaging the ceiling of a whole classroom block. He’d sometimes like to chop them down, he says, but then a beatific expression crosses his face as he recalls “but they were planted by Dr Hewitt”.

What can cause a level-headed School Principal to overlook a threat to his school buildings? Who is this Dr Hewitt?

It turns out that Dr Hewitt was the Johnny Appleseed of the Bellinger River Valley.

When he first arrived in 1927 as a young GP the area had been denuded of trees by years of intense logging. The rolling hills and green meadows were open and bare. As well as his doctor’s bag (on display in the local Museum), George Hewitt brought with him a love of plants, and in 1929 he established the Bellinger River Horticultural and Agricultural Society and began planting trees.

At first, the town that earned its living from forestry resisted George Hewitt’s efforts. You didn’t plant trees, you chopped them down and sold them. But Dr Hewitt got around the objections of the locals with commemorative tree plantings to honour those who had gone to war. Once started, they couldn’t stop him, and now, many years later, the townscape of Bellingen, and the valley that it nestles in, are defined by the generous shade, colour and textural integrity of the trees. They say there’s something in the air of Bellingen that makes it a magical place, perhaps its the oxygen from all those trees. Bellingen is still a place where it is groovy to be a tree-hugger.

The Hospital was Dr Hewitt’s workplace, and he beautified it and planted out the adjoining Arboretum as a special place, a locus amoenus where he and his patients and colleagues could take a soothing, restorative walk. In the local Museum, these trees are listed with their provenance. There is tamarind, sassafras, South Queensland kauri, hoop pine, lilly pilly, tallowwood, leopard tree, floss silk tree, brown silky oak, black bean and pecan, amongst hundreds of others.

As well as planting an abundance of native trees, Dr Hewitt corresponded with other horticulturalists and imported seed from all over the world. Rumour has it that some of the seeds were concealed securely beneath postage stamps. Dr Hewitt was the ‘go to’ man for exotic trees, and property owners eagerly sought him out. Museum Manager Jim Sweeney says “nobody knows exactly how many trees Dr Hewitt planted, or where he planted them.” Council set up a study a few years ago, but had to abandon it when they realised the huge scope of the project. Dr Hewitt had a motto of planting “100 trees a year”. Multiply that by just under sixty years, and you can see why it would be a challenge to find every one of those trees.

Every street in the older parts of Bellingen town is richer and greener because of Dr Hewitt. Oak Street is lined with Firewheel trees, William Street has jacarandas. At the heart of the town is the river, and the river end of Church Street is a hub; crusted with cafes and restaurants, lined with generous public seating. As I sip coffee and nibble on wildberry damper, the manager of the Bellingen Markets sits opposite, gnawing her pen as she works on a newsletter. A bunch of people are playing chess nearby. There are couples and singles, families eat pies, teenagers saunter with ice cream, bohemian women pause from their shopping. All of us are beneath the protective boughs of Dr Hewitt’s trees. His living legacy is a shade thrown from the past over us here and now.

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Newcastle: Cocomonde

7 Jul

Darby Street is a popular eating precinct in Newcastle offering a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants to choose from, with Thai and Vietnamese prominent amongst the mix. Kemlo and I chose to go for the chocolate at Cocomonde.

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Cocomonde offers delicious mains. We both opted for the fillet steak. It was perfectly cooked, accompanied by crisp, tasty vegetables – perfect fare for a cold Novocastrian night. But the hero of the night was the chocolate. Kemlo enjoyed his churros. They were crisp and golden on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside.

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I had the Cocomonde Bliss- a tower made from brandy snap, filled with gooey chunks of brownie, banana and strawberry, mortared together with melted chocolate. Churros erupted from the top of the tower like the snakes of Medusa and there was a scoop of vanilla nut ice cream on the side, together with yet more chocolate. Yum!

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The decor is vintage chocolate themed and there is a friendly vibe. The service was excellent, even though it was busy.

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We bought some Rocky Road to take home. The creamy marshmallow was a highlight.

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Bathurst – sweet caramel

24 Jun

Bathurst is a country town in NSW about 3 hours from Sydney. Just go over the Blue Mountains, past Lithgow, and there you are, driving along a high river valley, with Mount Panorama spelled out in large friendly letters on the left hand side as you drive into town. As well as being a venue for racing cars (and their drivers), Bathurst is a university town, so there’s a lot of poor, cold students about. Bathurst is crisply, clearly cold.

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We visited Bathurst for a family function, staying overnight at the Quality Hotel Bathurst and staging a rendezvous on Sunday for afternoon tea at Sweet caramel. This new cafe has a luxury country vibe, decorated with cottage touches but never straying into quaintness.

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20130624-173856.jpg Occupying the former premises of a pub, the refurbished space is big, with generous access for prams and wheelchairs. When I think of country cooking, I think of pies, tarts and cakes laden with fruit and spices, but the cakes and pastries at Sweet caramel are light, creamy and utterly delicious. I ordered the caramel choux. The pastry was crisp on the outside, filled with cream lightly tinged with caramel. There was just the right amount of caramel sauce to have a soup├žon with every bite.

20130624-174657.jpg The plates are shaped in modern ellipses, defying symmetry, and look great on the bright green tables.

20130624-174921.jpg My companions enjoyed the Banana Cream Tart and Caramel Nut Tart.

20130624-175055.jpg The coffee was good. My companions enjoyed their milkshake and ice coffee, served in tall, bell bottom glasses.

20130624-175244.jpg Drinks were around $5 each, sweets around $7 to $8 each. I’ll have to try the proper food next visit. When you leave the cafe, McHattie Park beckons from across the street.

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