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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bush Tucker - Australian Wines and Food in the land of Oz

With great (unplanned) synchronicity, this week's Online Grapevine special features Australian wines, from K Wines's Marquis Philips label, in the week just before I fly "down under" to the land of Oz! Australian wines have made a big splash in the US in recent years, more about that later. But first, the most intriguing aspect of Aussie culture to me is bush tucker--"bush" meaning "the Outback" and "tucker" meaning "food". Bush tucker is the name for the huge variety of edible herbs, spices, mushrooms, fruits, flowers, vegetables, animals, birds, reptiles and insects that are native to the country and traditionally consumed by Aboriginal peoples. The list includes Witchetty grubs, bugs (relatives to crawfish), yabbies (relatives to lobsters), wattle (seed from acacia) and goanna lizards. No, I'm not a Andrew Zimmern-wannabe and I won't be eating wallabees or Witchetty grubs--though an anthropologist friend developed a fondness for them and claims they taste like Skippy peanut butter. But, I am fascinated by the diverse flora and fauna of the Land Down Under and will look forward to trying some of the endemic spices and seasonings. Aboriginal celebrity chef Mark Olive has a listing of native plants like kutjera (also called desert raisin or bush tomato) on his website, as well as recipes such as Smoked Crocodile Chicken Salad flavored with kutjera (pictured at left), sea parsley, salt bush and wattleseed. Bush tucker ingredients can be purchased online from the Bush Tucker Shop in Sydney which I hope to scout out. We also have tickets to see the Sydney Fish Market and (very difficult to obtain) reservations at Tetsuya's, so it should be a gustatory, as well as cultural, adventure!

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup macadamia nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 fillets of mahi-mahi or striped bass, deboned (1 1/2 to 2 lbs.)
1 cup breadcrumbs
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the basil, macadamia nuts, garlic and oil in a food processor and whirl until well-mixed but still chunky. Transfer to a bowl and add the Parmesan and bread crumbs and mix well. Salt to taste. Press the pesto mixture into the fish on all sides, place on a greased baking pan and bake for about 10 minutes until cooked through or the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Serves 4.
Pair this recipe with the 2008 Marquis Philips Holly's Blend.

According to, Australia's first vineyards were planted in 1788 in a small area near the Sydney Harbour Bridge; the country now is the world's fourth largest wine exporter. The most famous winery is Penfolds which was established 60 years ago. Their wines command prices in the tens of thousands of dollars per bottle for certain vintages, like the 1951 Penfold Grange that sold for over $50,000. Founder Max Schubert started the first vineyard in Adelaide, New South Wales, but as the company grew and was bought out twice, their portfolio and vineyard reach has grown to include the Barossa Valley (the center of Aussie wine production), famed McLaren Vale south of Adelaide, cool Clare Valley (good for Riesling and Chardonnay cultivation), Coonawarra and more--all in the South Australia wine region. The map from the Grateful Palate Imports website shows the relationship. One can see from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology map that the rainfall is heaviest in the south and east (where the continent's only mountain range runs). Winemaker for Marquis Philips, Chris Ringland wrote this of the climate: "The weather in Southern Australia is profoundly influenced by one geographical feature; there is no land mass between Australia’s southern coasts and Antarctica...This means that when the center of a high pressure cell is located over the Southern coastal wine growing regions as it approaches from the West, we experience cool, wet conditions due to cold air being directed up from the South Polar regions. As the cell progresses across South Eastern Australia to the Tasman Sea, the subsequent northerly airstream directs hot, dry air down from central and Northern Australia."
Tidbits of information on viniculture from the Australian government wine website include a claim for the oldest vineyards in the world, since they escaped the vine disease phylloxera which decimated most of the vineyards in Europe and the Americas at the turn of the century.

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