I’m not sure what it is about this winter, but nearly every weekend for the past three months has been gorgeous and blue. With the sun shining down it was the perfect opportunity for a day trip to the Hunter Valley to visit a few of my favourite wineries and check out the annual Chocolate Festival, held at the Hunter Valley Gardens.
A slight miscommunication in times meant that at 8am friend P buzzed at my door with me still tucked safely in bed! 20 minutes later we left and practically flew towards Hunter making the trip in just under 2 hours, a great run. Hunter Valley is absolutely doable as a day trip and I would recommend making a relatively early start of it as you’ll avoid the worst of the traffic.
After 2 hours of driving we found ourselves in the Hunter Valley and at the Gardens, being past 10am at this point and despite all the white pavilions in the distance we had to stop somewhere for breakfast first. It just isn’t a Sunday morning without a German sausage and sauerkraut! With our bellies taken care of we wandered into the pavilion where a number of chocolate and sweet related store were set up.
At first glance I thought the piggies had been slightly damaged in transit with half of them smeared with chocolate, then realised they were simply playing in the icing! I didn’t get a shot of the rest of the cake, but it was a series of chocolate cupcakes all topped with an individual pig!
Given the choice between a chocolate shot, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, or a cup filled with chocolates it was a pretty easy decision! With P distracted by the bon bon stand just next door I found myself popping piece after piece after piece…
There are friends who I inevitably call on if I’m interested in eating, however P is one of those friends I call on when I want something sweet. Between the two of us there have been occasions where our dessert selctions have outnumbered the rest of the group we’ve been eating with. So when we spotted a stand full of pastries P powers onto an eclaire. I end up almost begging for a bite from P as my stomach can’t take much more after all those chocolate strawberries. Did I mention we’d been at the festival for about 20 minutes at this point?
I made the mistake of taking this into work where it was promptly devoured by the girls. The ladies at The Curious Chocolatier tell me that the strawberries are frozen and incorporated into the chocolate whole, resulting in lovely whole strawberry chunks all throughout the bar. The pepper adds an interesting kick which works lovely with the strawberry.
Don’t judge me, for some reason I can’t walk away from American chocolate and peanut butter. I ended up with a packet of Peanut Butter M&Ms and only just managed to stop myself from buying a pack of Reeses.
Leaving the pavilion we noticed a Coffee and Hot Chocolate stand, despite only just proclaiming I couldn’t fit in another bite, the sight of the sign ‘Organic Hot Chocolate Mayan Style with Chilli and Cinnamon’ stopped me in my tracks. I’ve often thought of chilli chocolate as a bit of a fad but call me a convert. The Xocolate team were not shy when adding in the chilli and it added a welcome kick and was a perfect drink for a chilli Winter morning.
Following a tweet from Adriano Zumbo we wandered over towards the judging grounds for the Callebaut Chocolate Festival where he was competing. We arrive just in time to catch the tail end of his interview, but upon realising that a few of the entries are available for viewing on the sidelines I quickly swoop in with the camera. In the midst of my photography haze I find myself side by side with Zumbo himself and can only say, ‘Do you want to swap sides? ‘. Haha epic fail on my behalf.
Later on I think of various introduction lines such as, ‘I saw your tweet and came over,’ but ultimately reject all these lines deeming them as rather stalkerish.
Unfortunately while the majority of the entries had a quick description of their componenets, none listed who had created each one. The standard of these entries was astounding and I couldn’t help but wish they were available for consumer taste testing! Each of the entries was assembled at the competition grounds, the chefs responsible would plate up 4 dishes of each dessert, 3 for the judges and 1 for display.
Thank you to Amy from Wasmedia for providing me with the winners of the competition:
- Winner, Jodie Van Der Velden from ‘Josophans’ at Leura.
- Second place; Brendon Dewar from ‘Bacco patisserie’ at Chiffley Plaza.
- Third place; Brian Pescud from ‘Manna From Heaven’.
- Best apprentice; Immanuel Arena from ‘The Beresford’.
The winning dessert: ‘Palet d’Or et Noisettes’ loosely translated as pillows of gold and hazelnuts. Palet d’Or is often used to name a dark chocolate disc/pillow of chocolate which is coated in dark chocolate with a little gold leaf on top. The winner received the prize of an international trip for a 3 day training course at a Callebaut Chocolate Academy, valued at $5000. Congratulations to Jodie Van Der Velden, Laura is situated in the Blue Mountains, I may just have to make time for another day trip I think…
We spent around 3 hours at the festival, and upon driving out were grateful that we’d come early as the cars were parked outside the gates on the main road! With our chocolate craving curbed we moved onto some wine tasting! Tempus Two and McGuigans are two of my favourite wineries, every time I go to Hunter I always end up walking away with a bottle of Late Picked Tramminer from McGuigans.
After reading the reviews from Karen and Billy I can’t help but make a stopover at Enzo. Depisite knowing that P and I are already booked for dinner we make the decision to stop over at Enzo for a mini tea break and a taste of their raved about scones. The fact that Enzo is less than a 5 minute drive away doesn’t hurt either.
Arriving at Enzo we are promptly seated in the courtyard and I take a moment to enjoy the sunshine. Glancing at the menu I’m slightly tempted to order a Muggacino which comes complete with a warning in red, ‘this is a warning!! our infamous muggacino’s are very large!) but manage to resist and and order a glass of white wine instead. With my mind set on afternoon tea we settle at our table and wait for our waitress.
Unfortunately all of our resolves turns to dust as plate after plate of amazing food goes to the tables around us and I immediately beg P to share a puff pastry tart with me. We are not disappointed when the tart comes out with wonderfully flaky pastry and a perfectly seasoned combo of sundried tomatoes, lamb and feta in a serving size that is more than generous enough for us to share.
A slight miscommunication with the waitress actually sees TWO plates of scones come out to our table. Of course being who we are P and I simply look at each other before digging into our respective plates. One bite into the scone I’m infinitely grateful for the mixup as I don’t think I could have given up my second scone without a fight! Fluffy interior and a crust just lightly toasted with thick cream that begs to be spread over the scone topped with strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. The couple sitting to our right takes one look at the scones and immediately adds them to their order.
I’ll definitely be returning to Enzo on my next trip to Hunter Valley, if their other mains and desserts are even remotely on the same level as the two dishes I was able to try I’ll definitely be in for a treat!
Broke Road Pokolbim
Ph: (02) 4998 7233
The Hunter Valley Chocolate Festival is held annually at the Hunter Valley Gardens, entry is $19.90 for adults and $15.50 for concessions.
Hunter Valley Gardens
Pokolbin NSW 2320 Australia
Ph: (02) 4998 4000
Fax: (02) 4998 4001