Rain bucketed down Wednesday morning as my friend Barbara (from Winos and Foodies) and I sipped coffee and nibbled delicious pain au chocolat from the wonderful French patisserie Chouquette in Brisbane.
Both of us are early risers, so we had a few hours to kill before our big day out at Natasha’s Annual Christmas Degustation Trek with Taste Trekkers and Natasha Mirosch. We were so excited, eager to join other food-loving adventurers for a tour of Russian, Greek, and Italian shops in Brisbane.
Sally is even more jolly and hilarious than her website conveys, and we felt utterly welcomed. She chatted a mile a minute as she whipped up one delicious dish after another for our post-shopping lunch. The downpour kept us from enjoying her beautiful riverside backyard, but we contented ourselves with the view from her covered porch.
Soon everyone arrived and after pasting nametags on our bosoms we boarded our bus and headed to our first stop, the Greek shop Samios.
Established in 1934, Samios is a charming hodgepodge of traditional Greek offerings like Baklava and feta cheese mingled with unusual ingredients from around Europe. The owner regaled us with jokes and stories as we were served thick Greek coffee and platter after platter of dolmades and various Greek cheeses. While I listened, an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and wondered what was happening. We got to chatting and I found out that he was from Slovakia and had relatives in Canada in the same town as my relatives. Things like that make me smile.
Then it was time to shop and I perused the shelves happily, filling my basket with a parcel of sumac, some liquid smoke, a jar of grape molasses, and a tender wedge of baklava.
Our next stop was Pennisi Cuisine, a warehouse-style shop which specializes in Italian foods but also carries delectables from all over the world. I was thrilled to pieces to find ingredients for Mexican food – something I’ve been craving since I left the US in July – a bag of my favorite Canadian cookies Dare Maple Leaf, and a couple bags of spices for a mere $2 a bag.
Our final destination was the Ruski Way Deli, small, relatively new shop full of Eastern European delicacies like Napoleon cakes, Russian chocolates, and anti-oxidant super food berries from Siberia. The owners went all out creating a special Russian tea for us on a table laden with all sorts of lovely things: bread rounds topped with plump Russian caviar, eggplant puree, and thinly sliced sausage, and an array of cakes. I lived in Russia for a few months many years ago and have loved the food ever since. I was so excited to find homemade sauerkraut and pelmeni, especially when the owner told me how to turn the sauerkraut into a delicious Russian salad.
We arrived back at Sally’s in time for a tea tasting with the oh-so-knowledgeable May King of MayKing Tea. She shared an iced version made from an herbal mixture that tasted like real tea. Suitably refreshed we wandered into Sally’s basement that she had turned into a Greek Taverna when the weather rendered outside dining impossible.
There we were given a Clovely Estate wine tasting by the lovely Renee who taught us about different grapes and Australian wines. A bit later we were given a beer tasting by the inspiring Matt Kirkegaard who introduced us to a Belgian bblond ale La Chouffee. I can’t wait to serve it with the smoked salmon and chive tart he recommended.
At long last we sat down at long tables in Sally’s Greek Taverna and tucked into her incredible lunch.
Here is only part of her scrumptious menu:
Pork Belly Apple Fennel Salad
Smoked Trout Soba Noodle Salad
Banana Flower Salad with Shredded Chicken
Roasted Veg with Creamy Feta and Roquette Dressing
Black Rice with Mango and Coconut Milk with Palm Sugar
We visited animatedly about food and travels and the latest must-have kitchen gadgets, chit-chatted about our jobs and families and homes. Long after the event was over we lingered, until someone glanced at the clock and suddenly there was a flurry of bag-grabbing and leftover-packing and contact info exchanging before, one by one, we disappeared into the rain.
It was a fantastic day, a wonderful experience learning about so many different foods and cultures and getting to meet such lovely people.
If you’re ever in Brisbane, be sure to check out Taste Trekkers for a delectable and inspiring day out.