Stunning Sweetwater; and the baking queen retains her crown | Food Bites

Feast your eyes on this work of art. It is one of the stunning dishes enjoyed by guests at Sweetwater Estate earlier this month and prepared by Troy Rhoades-Brown, of the two-hatted Muse Restaurant.

PRETTY: Troy Rhoades-Brown worked his magic at Sweetwater Estate this month. View more of his creations from the launch event online at

PRETTY: Troy Rhoades-Brown worked his magic at Sweetwater Estate this month. View more of his creations from the launch event online at

The feast began with canapes: freshly shucked local rock oysters with Lovedale fingerlime, smoked soy and green onion oil; fermented cabbage, daikon radish and nori sushi; and Little Hill Farm chicken liver paté with plum macaroon.

Raw Port Stephens yellow-fin tuna, green tomato, avruga, citrus kosho, white soy and shiso followed, then slow-cooked Loomberah suckling lamb, smoked eggplant, house white miso and escallot. 

The third course was Upper Hunter wagyu charred over coals, koshihkari brown rice, shitake, dashi and fresh wasabi butter, mitsuba and seaweed puffed rice, and dessert was white chocolate and wattleseed set cream, hazelnut and banana sorbet with fermented golden passionfruit.

Each course was expertly matched with wines chosen by Sweetwater Wines winemaker Bryan Currie. 

The grand finale was the launch of the Sweetwater Wine Club.

The Hunter Valley venue is now open for private events. 

Baking queen

Janette Robertson, of Adamstown Heights, led by example at this year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show cookery competition. She took home the coveted trophy for best exhibitor in the preserves section for the second year in a row and won 11 ribbons in total. 

Janette Robertson. Picture: Supplied

Janette Robertson. Picture: Supplied

“I dedicated my winning decorated pantry box to the wonderful and colourful life of the Romani and their historical connection to fairs and carnivals,” she told Food & Wine. 

“In this box I had some favourites I had made this year, such as tiny strawberry tomatoes pickled in sweet vinegar and flavoured with purple basil flowers and yellow, orange, purple and red coloured chillies, all from my garden.

“I also made an unusual sweet red rose vinegar using home-grown rose petals donated by my lovely work colleagues and only sugar and vinegar.  The natural colour was stunning and the flavour and aroma heavenly.”

She stepped outside of her comfort zone this year by experimenting with unique flavour combinations, for example, the raspberry and violet dessert sauce and the strawberry and rose petal dessert sauce, and a spicy Asian plum sauce made from in-season blood plums and a red-hot sweet chilli sauce. 

“This was a challenge because no amount of internet searching could locate any recipes, so I trusted my ingenuity and made my own,” she said. 

”This year I also tried, for the first time, a blood orange marmalade which was spectacular both in colour and flavour, and something out of the ordinary: a spiced tangelo marmalade using cinnamon, clove and star anise. 

“I am enthusiastic and inspired and already researching and working on some unique and new flavour combinations and themes for next year’s competition. It’s a whole year’s work, really, but very rewarding.”

Seasonal lunch

Gus Maher will be attending his first Hunter Culinary Association seasonal lunch as chairman at The Cellar Restaurant in Pokolbin this month.

The luncheon will feature a masterclass by renowned chef, charcuterist and butcher Michael Robinson, who will break down a whole veal carcass and share some tricks of the trade.

Robinson began his cooking career training at The Bathers Pavilion, Balmoral, before moving overseas to take up roles at La Trompette in London and Ortolan in Los Angeles. Returning to Australia, he joined Justin North at the two-hatted Becasse where he worked for five years as joint head chef before launching Becasse group’s one-hatted Quarter 21.

Looking for a tree change, he moved north to the Hunter Valley where he was head chef at Margan restaurant for three years before taking over Branxton Quality Meats in 2016. It was here his passion for meat and charcuterie really came into its own, and he has continued to work with small local farms and producers, sourcing quality ethically-produced animals and developing his knowledge of dry ageing, curing and fermenting meats.

Following the masterclass, The Cellar Restaurant’s owner and chef Andy Wright will prepare a three-course lunch served with matching Hunter Valley wines.

Tickets to the April 17 lunch cost $100 for association members, $130 for non-members and $30 for apprentice chefs. To book, email Kirsty at or visit

New location

The Tea Collective has moved and can now be found upstairs at  The Autumn Rooms, 127 Darby Street, Cooks Hill.

Pop-up pastries

If you’re wondering where Covered In Crumbs will be popping up this week, try The Fernery at 84 Fern Street, Islington. Pastry chef Gareth Williams will be there on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, 8am to noon. 

Burger kings

Newy Burger Co won the people’s choice award at a “burger off” in Sydney last weekend.

Newy Burger Co won the people's choice award in Sydney last weekend. Picture: Ben Neil

Newy Burger Co won the people's choice award in Sydney last weekend. Picture: Ben Neil

“We were invited to compete against five other burger food trucks and we all had to do a spin on a classic cheeseburger and then a signature burger,” Newy Burger Co’s Ben Neil said. “We did our Dudley burger – southern fried chicken, cheese, Paris mash and spicy gravy. The Sydney people loved it. A number of people regularly travel from Sydney for our burgers in Newcastle. There were some heavy-hitting trucks there and we scored the people’s choice burg which was voted for by the people.”

Slow food scholarships

Young farmers, Earth Market producers and chefs are invited to apply for one of three Slow Food Hunter Valley scholarships and travel to Turin, Italy, in September to attend international slow food convention Terra Madre – Salone del Gusto. It brings together 7000 farmers, chefs and food advocates from 143 countries every two years. 

Who can apply? Hunter Valley farmers aged between 18 and 35 who can demonstrate sustainable farming practices; chefs with a longstanding commitment to sourcing local, seasonal produce; and farmers or producers who have been regular Earth Market stallholders since May 2017.  The deadline for applications is May 21. Pick up an application form at Maitland’s Earth Market on April 5 or download the form at


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