SheSaid’s Guide To Kangaroo Island

May 7, 2013

SheSaid headed to Kangaroo Island for the KI Feastival to celebrate the island’s best food and wine, and discovered an island that’s perfect for a foodie getaway or get-away-from-it-all family escape.

KI, as it is popularly known, is South Australia’s hidden gem. A natural paradise less than half an hour by plane from Adelaide. There are plenty of accommodation options – from ultra exclusive retreats (Lifetime Private Retreats, Southern Ocean Lodge) for those seeking something extra special, to modern, comfortable hotels (Aurora Ozone in Kingscote). There are B&Bs scattered all over the island, as well as wilderness adventure lodges, holiday homes and camping grounds.

We were there to experience the annual KI Feastival, now in it’s second year. A week of celebrating all the best KI has to offer…world-class wines, seafood, cheese, lamb, honey, the list goes on.

On our first day we visited Clifford’s Honey Farm, a family owned and run business which boasts some of the world’s only pure Ligurian bees (they even breed and export queen bees back to Europe). There are a myriad of varieties of honey and honey products, including delicious home-made vanilla ice cream and toasted macadamias in honey.

After a little sightseeing we were off to the KI Feastival Launch Dinner, presided over by celebrity chef George Calombaris. George was thrilled to work with KI-grown produce and it is easy to understand why. We feasted on a delightfully light salad of fresh abalone and whiting, then a main course of decadent roasted goose and finally a smooth sheep’s cheese and honey parfait… all washed down with wines from some of the best local wineries.

The morning of day two saw us visiting Emu Bay, one of many scenic KI locations. We make a quick detour to Emu Bay Lavender Farm before stopping by The Islander Estate Vineyard in Parndana. This is the estate of Jacques Lurton, the legendary French winemaker who recognised KI’s perfect wine growing conditions during his first visit in 1997. Now he spends part of each year there while the winery is managed by the delightful Yale Norris.

After fantastic squid and chips at Rockpool Cafe, we stopped at the Island Pure Sheep Dairy and Cheese Factory for a delicious tour. It is a pleasure to see a farm where the animals are treated with not just respect but love. They work on the principal that a happy animal provides the best quality and quantity of milk and the proof is really in the pudding. Their sheep’s milk cheeses are superb, especially the haloumi which is the best I’ve ever tasted. Chatting with the chief cheese maker Sally George is a privilege as she is so dedicated to her craft and to the welfare of the animals who provide her ingredients.

Something you don’t expect in this part of Australia is a world-class gin distillery and that’s what we found at KIS (Kangaroo Island Spirits). Jon and Sarah Lark are sea changers who have found themselves with a gin distillery and they are nothing if not passionate about their work. The gin and tonic on offer was nothing less than superb, due to the top-notch gin being produced and to the secret recipe tonic cordial Jon is perfecting and is yet to release commercially.

Dinner, prepared by Jon’s son Louis (a chef at Southern Ocean Lodge) is another elegant meal featuring the best KI produce. Plump oysters with a gin granita is a sublime way to start a meal. Then snapper and salmon, a refreshing cucumber and gin soup, South Rock lamb served with a mulberry gin jus and finally a couple of tiny lemon and gin tarts.

On Sunday, our final day, we were up and out early to head south-west to beautiful Vivonne Bay and Seal Bay. Seal Bay is a truly magnificent landscape and the seals a delight…you could watch them for hours. Though it seemed to be nap time when we arrived, a few were enjoying the surf and one cheeky fellow went from group to group, trying to wake someone to play with him.

One last stop in Kingscote for the “Tasting King Island at the Wharf” – a day of food and wine events on the waterfront. There are market and food stalls selling local produce (the olive oils and fig syrup were amazing) – all in all a full day of gastronomic delights.

We’re already day-dreaming about the Kangaroo Island Food Safari in August, hosted by Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant… better start saving up!

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