Tasmania: Foodie Island

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Tasmania: Foodie Island
Tasmania has long been praised for the quality of its ingredients—apples, cherries, cheese, Wagyu beef, salmon, oysters, and even saffron. There’s not much that doesn’t grow here, and chefs, brewers, and bakers are putting the bounty to good use.
By Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
Photo courtesy of Sarah Williams/Tourism Tasmania
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    Farm-to-Table Focus
    Tasmania is blessed and cursed by its isolation. Being so far from the mainland means it’s often too expensive to ship products across the Bass Strait, let alone overseas. But the upside is an abundance of fresh ingredients right in city backyards. Local, organic, and seasonal have always been part of the cuisine here, but Garagistes in Hobart was the restaurant that put Tasmania’s ingredients in the international spotlight. Sadly, it's now closed, but Ethos and The Source are still going strong, as is Stillwater in Launceston. The movement now extends to cafés, bakeries, and even sweet shops.
    Photo courtesy of Sarah Williams/Tourism Tasmania
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    More Than Fish and Chips
    Much of Tasmania’s coastline is undeveloped and pollution-free. The chilly water temperature is ideal for many sea creatures, including salmon, which the state farms in large quantities—look for Huon salmon on menus. Other standout swimmers and bottom dwellers include oysters, mussels, trout, and striped trumpeter. For a waterfront meal, head to Mures seafood restaurant at Victoria Dock in Hobart or Hallam’s Waterfront restaurant in Launceston. Two favorite stops for oysters are Get Shucked on Bruny Island and the Freycinet Marine Farm in Coles Bay.
    Photo courtesy of Nigel Honey/Tourism Tasmania
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    Beer, Wine, and Cider
    Tasmanian hops, apples, and grapes all date back to the 19th century, but beer, wine, and cider have unique modern stories. The two biggest breweries—Cascade and James Boag—are still in operation, each offering tours and tastings. Craft beer is a newer obsession, with innovative breweries like Moo Brew, Seven Sheds, and Two Metre Tall pushing the envelope. Cool-climate wines really got going in the 1950s; most vineyards are in the Tamar Valley north of Launceston, the outskirts of Hobart, around Coles Bay in the east, and near Devonport up north. Cider is the newest renaissance; at least four new producers—Willie Smith’s, Pagan, Frank’s, and Red Sails—are based near the Huon Valley. Don’t miss the Willie Smith’s Apple Shed in Grove.
    Photo courtesy of Kathryn Leahy/Tourism Tasmania
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    The Scotland of Australia
    In 1990, after realizing Hobart had a similar climate to Scotland and perhaps superior barley, Bill Lark fought to change the 1838 law that prohibited the production of small-batch whisky in Australia. In 1992, the Lark Distillery was founded, pioneering a new industry in Tasmania that now includes more than ten producers of single-malt whisky. At the Lark cellar door (tasting room) in Hobart, visitors can choose from more than 150 varieties of single-malt whisky to sample, from Lark’s own special releases to other Tasmanian labels such as Redlands Estate, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road. Lark and such outfitters as Drink Tasmania organize experiences that range from tastings and distillery visits to interactions with whisky makers.
    Photo courtesy of Nick Osborne/Tourism Tasmania
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    Tasmanian Fine Dining
    Despite growing some of the country’s best ingredients, it wasn’t until recently that Tasmania had the chefs to prepare them. Smolt is a favorite in the Salamanca district, serving Spanish- and Italian-style dishes made with Tasmanian ingredients. Me Wah, in Hobart and Launceston, is regarded as one of the best Asian restaurants in Australia. Stillwater, located in an 1830s mill on Tamar River in Launceston, is popular for its location and for mains such as slow-roasted, salt-grass lamb from Finders Island. The newest restaurant by the Stillwater team, Black Cow Bistro, is doing incredible things with beef.
    Photo courtesy of Hype TV/Tourism Tasmania
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    Tassie Coffee Culture
    Like the rest of Australia, Tasmania is a coffee-loving place amped on flat whites and long blacks. Good coffee is not hard to come by here, but Hobart offers some of the best cups. Tricycle serves Five Senses coffee from an intimate space in Salamanca Place. Pilgrim is another cult favorite; the owners hand-pick beans and blends from specialty roasters across Australia. Yellow Bernard is small but serious, and employed one of the first cold-filter machines in the city; try the Project Yellow bean variety that owner David Jolly co-produced with Zimmah Coffee roasters around the corner. Up north, Gioconda and Ritual roasters are setting the bar, and spots like Inside Café in Launceston are turning heads from Hobart.
    Photo by Serena Renner
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    Cook Like a Tasmanian
    A number of cooking schools help travelers bring their food experiences home. In the Derwent Valley, Sally Wise leads courses on preserving, slow cooking, and making the perfect pizza. About 20 minutes west, the Agrarian Kitchen, opened by chef Rodney Dunn—who formerly worked as the food editor for Australian Gourmet Traveller—runs 25-plus classes from whole-hog cooking to vintage baking in a schoolhouse turned farmhouse. Out east near Orford, Brockley Estate is an old sheep-shearing homestead that offers accommodation and Spanish cooking classes—the maître d’ hails from the Canary Islands. Red Feather Inn, a country B&B outside Launceston, works with local and international chefs to bring new techniques to the Apple Isle.
    Photo courtesy of Alice Hansen/Tourism Tasmania
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    Bread and Baked Goods
    With moist, salty air similar to San Francisco, Tasmania is no stranger to starters and yeast. Jackman and McRoss is a Hobart institution that draws queues to its colonial-style Battery Point bakery for its organic sourdoughs, award-winning meat pies, and some of the best croissants outside of France. Daci and Daci is another master of bread, as well as of the croque-monsieur and the doughnut-like bombaloni. Pigeon Whole Bakers is the place for sourdough: stone-ground, organic fruit, fig and walnut—you name it. The Picnic Basket, just south of Hobart, serves perfectly pleated organic loaves as well as great sausages and pies made from local beef. And up near Launceston, Apiece bakery specializes in sourdough and pizza.
    Photo courtesy of Melinda Ta/Tourism Tasmania
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    Sweet Treats
    Tasmania is known for some of the freshest milk in Australia, which has been used in chocolate making since the early 20th century. The Cadbury chocolate factory has been operating in Tasmania since 1922. House of Anvers—another historic chocolatier, located between Launceston and Devonport—specializes in Belgian-style sweets. Boutique producers have sprung up as well—don’t miss Cygneture and The Cat’s Tongue in the Huon Valley, Nutpatch Nougat in Kettering, or Cocobean in Launceston. Ice cream is another Tasmanian specialty. Valhalla is the major producer, but Sweet Envy in Hobart is as creative as they come. In summer, the shop’s soft serve truck scoops flavors like the Breaking Bad blue sherbet.
    Photo courtesy of Graham Freeman/Tourism Tasmania
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    Greet the Day with Brekky
    Come the morning, birds or the sounds of sailboat masts clanking in the breeze might wake you and announce it's time for breakfast. In Hobart, you can’t go wrong with an early walk around the Salamanca district followed by a big “brekky” at Tricycle or Smolt. Pigeon Hole in West Hobart is another sure bet—order baked eggs or the seasonal muesli. The Picnic Basket just south of town makes for a lovely sunrise excursion—the back of the café has big windows that face the ocean, and house-baked pastries, Zimmah coffee, a communal table, and a “recyclibrary” of books exemplify the collective spirit. Hubert & Dan is a cozy choice near Launceston; the friendly staff might offer an egg scramble with whatever is growing in the back garden.
    Photo by age fotostock