Category Archives: NSW Central West

The Mudgee Show – a touch of Nepal…

This week’s Road Food blog comes to you from the Mudgee Show.

showgrounds

The Mudgee Show happens this time each year. There’s a rodeo and livestock judging and competitions for scones and fruit cake and flowers and intriguing artistic use of vegetables.

preserves

flowers

Fay.2 veggies

I noticed that Fay Spargo was a big winner in the cake section. Fay ripped. She’ll need a trailer to carry home all her ribbons. I should find out where Fay lives and invite myself over for afternoon tea. I want Fay Spargo to be my aunt or grandma.

Fay.3 Fay.4 Fay.6 Fay.5

Fay probably now has a lot of enemies around Mudgee.

There’ll be a lot of bakers and cake decorators around town – let’s call them collectively “The Losers” – who’d want to take her out. I’d be worried if I were Fay Spargo. I’d check the underside of my car of a morning before I turned on the ignition. Walking down Church Street I’d keep an eye on the rooftops for snipers. I’ve heard there’s some roo shooters around town looking for extra work.

If Fay Spargo were to come to an untimely death in the next few months, I’d suggest the cops first question those little old ladies that came second or third in the Mudgee Show Cake competition. Damn sure they’d find their killer amongst that aggrieved lot.

It was raining during the show, which was great for the farmers and graziers because the Mudgee district has been drought affected – however for the show people who make their living following the carnival circuit, it was bad news. Attendances were well down.

Cappucino van stand in rain

The side show folk follow a circuit that takes them all over the country. It’s a hard nomadic life. Mr. Brown, from Brown’s Dagwood Dogs food stand, says he only spends six weeks at home each year. The rest of the time he and his family are on the road, from Darwin down to southern Victoria.

Mr. brown

Dagwood Dogs sign

I love side-show alley, as it was called in my day. There’s something wonderfully dark and tacky about it. Very Ray Bradbury. Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of my favourite books – the story of a haunted carnival that comes to a small country town. That story still creeps me out. Very scary.

I walked through the side-show area and took photos of odd things that caught my interest.

croc pay here tilt winning numbers dolls clowns this shelf winning numbers

If you want something to eat at the show – (and who doesn’t?) – the choice comes down to what particular sort of fast food do you want to ingest: Dagwood Dogs (hot dogs deep fried), Chiko Rolls (we know all about Chiko Rolls now, don’t we..) hamburgers and of course hot chips.

And for desert, there’s  fairy floss. What’s a trip down side-show alley without a bag of fairy floss? A bag of fairy floss sets you back $4, however you can buy a bucket for $10.

A bucket of fairy floss – how good is that?

Buckets $10

I wandered out of side-show alley and got chatting to Miss Mudgee Showgirl – Tanya Wiseby, aged 24. She’s an economic agronomist who’s hoping to represent Mudgee at the Sydney Show at Easter. Tanya’s folks run a property out of town, and Tanya is knowledgeable about issues to do with farming and agriculture.

Tanya Wiseby

I don’t know whether Tanya had to do a swimsuit parade to get the title – that would seem kind of obscene in a drought. But needless to say she was charming and beautiful and very knowledgeable about agronomy. If she goes on to win Miss Universe then you can tell your friends you discovered her first in Bill’s Road Food blog.

At the back of the show, beside the Animal Nursery, was a stall standing all by itself. A stall selling Nepalese food. It was called Nepali Khana. I walked over.

Nepali Kahana

I’ve never been to Nepal, and I don’t even know that I’d ever had Nepalese food before, so I was intrigued. I was also very hungry because I couldn’t bring myself to eat a Dagwood Dog. And last week I’d had to eat a Chiko Roll for the Road Food blog and that ill-fated decision stayed in my intestines for several days. So the thought of having some “proper” food appealed to me – especially a cuisine I’d never tasted before.

Running the stall was a very pleasant and happy young lady named Dayna. She didn’t look Nepalese, and when I spoke to her, she didn’t sound Nepalese. She sounded Australian. But the two fellows toiling away in the kitchen behind her did have a distinct Nepalese appearance – although I have been known to confuse Vietnamese with Arabs.

Suren & Milan

I ordered the Nepalese Chicken with Rice, for $10. While Dayna was putting it in a takeaway container, she told me that she’d met her husband, Suren, on a trekking holiday in Nepal several years earlier. She worked in a bank, and it had been her first holiday out of the country.

working in stall

chicken

She ended up living for a year in Nepal with Suren and his family – including his son Milan –  before they came back to Australia, where they got married. They now have full time jobs, but they run the market on weekends, driving out of the city to do country gigs.

dumplings

Dayna said the Sydney-siders seem a bit suspicious of Nepalese food, whereas the country folk are more prepared to give it a try.

My chicken was delicious. Not quite Indian, not quite Moroccan. A spicy flavour all its own. The meat so tender it melted in my mouth.

I then tried the flatbread, with spinach and pine nuts. Again, $10. I watched how Suren prepared the bread, then grilled it up like a Mexican quesadilla. Cut up into portions on a plate and served with yoghurt, it was scrumptious.

making flatbread.1 flatbread.2 flatbread.3

I noticed that the stall was lining up with customers. The fast food stalls were doing slow business, but the Nepali Khana was doing a brisk trade. It was the only food stall at the show selling food that wouldn’t kill you.

From a holiday in Nepal, falling in love with her Sherpa, living in a remote Himalayan village for a year, to now serving strange exotic foods at the Mudgee Show – what a great story Dayna told me.

I hope she and Suren and their son Milan make a real go of it. They deserve to.

Dayna Suren & Milan

Rylstone Artisan Markets with a Lady Bushranger…

I love a market.

I love discovering a market – driving into a town and seeing a cluster of stalls and crowds milling around, buzzing with excitement. I always have to stop and investigate.

For me there’s nothing more thrilling than walking through a town or city and turning a corner and suddenly realizing I’m in the middle of a bustling market, selling all sorts of stuff that’s particular to that part of the world.

And of course integral to all markets are the food stalls – often run by local chefs who like to turn their hand on market day to making simple but delicious food that can be eaten as you wander through. Invariably these stalls only sell stuff that’s fresh, using produce that’s locally sourced, and of the highest quality. The kind of food you can’t get in a supermarket.

Some of my memorable markets are:

  • The huge Thursday markets in Barcelos, North Portugal
  • The Sunday street markets around 125th Street in Harlem, New York
  • The Saturday markets in Rue Moufftarde in Paris
  • The Saturday markets in Salamanca Place, Hobart Tasmania
  • The Camden Lock Markets in London
  • Pike Place Markets in Seattle
  • The Sunday morning markets in central Krakow, Poland
  • The morning farmers market in Fortville, Cannes France
  • Havel’s Market in the centre of Prague
  • The markets down by the waterfront in Helsinki, Finland
  • The Siem Reap night markets in Cambodia
  • The Temple Street Night Markets in Hong Kong
  • The San Lorenzo markets in Florence, Italy
  • Crawford Market in Bombay
  • The Camel Markets in Cairo
  • And all the tiny little markets I’ve just stumbled across in my travels.

And then there’s the Rylstone markets.

The Rylstone Artisan and Produce Markets are held every second Saturday of the month, and whilst they’re not quite Florence and they’re not quite Prague, they ARE true blue Aussie.

Rylstone markets

Rylstone is a small country town 3 hours drive (240kms) north west of Sydney. To get there you have to drive through some beautiful bushland, ravaged at the moment by drought.

Rylstone trees

sheep

Rylstone began life in the mid 1800s, and now has an ecclectic population of about 1000 people, with a mixture of locals who’ve been there for generations, along with a younger hipper “blow-in” crowd who’ve established some cool shops and eateries.

On a Saturday morning the main drag is bustling… (note the lack of parking space.)

Rylstone street

I live in Mudgee, a further 45 minutes drive to the north west – and it has a population of 8000. It’s regarded by the folk in Rylstone as “the big smoke.”

Rylstone, and its sister town Kandos some 20kms away, have developed something of a foodie reputation. Nestled in the surrounding hills and valleys are producers making wonderful cheeses, breads, olive oils, honeys and jams – along with the best poultry, lamb and beef. The Mudgee district also produces some terrific wines.

The Rylstone Artisan Markets are situated in the Municipal Shire Hall and surrounding grounds.

Shire Hall

Opposite is the Rylstone pub.

Rylstone pub

Note that no-one is parked outside the pub because they’re all either at the markets, or hanging out along the bustling main drag.

The pub has a bar called The Lady Bushranger bar. Also note that it has an ATM, and one could place a very cogent argument that the banks are now the modern day bushrangers.

Lady Bushranger

The Lady Bushranger referred to is a local legend. Her name was Jessie Hickman, and she was one tough mother. Her stock in trade was cattle “duffing,” in Aussie lingo. In America lingo it would be called cattle “rustling.”

Hickman

Jessie Hickman lived in a cave outside of Rylstone around the early 1900s, and is reputed to have escaped custody one time by stripping off in front of the local copper until she was completely stark naked. The cop got such a fright he averted his gaze, and she slipped away.

Hall int

Walking into the Shire Hall on market day, the first stall you encounter is a food stall run by Ali, a former Sydney chef. She sells delicious home made quiches and wraps and muffins. All sourced from local produce.

Ali at stall

Ali used to cook for the Sydney Dance Co, the jazz clientele at The Basement, and other prestigious establishments. She did catering for the Big End of Town, but a back injury put a premature halt to her burgeoning career and she went bush – and now the Rylstone locals benefit from her relocation.

Vegetable quiche bicuits Chicken quiche

I try her free range chicken with roasted vegetables quiche, ($4.50) accompanied by her own secret mustard mayo recipe, and the combination is yummy! The quiche tastes like it was made with enormous generosity of spirit.

Further into the hall is a stand selling the most delicious home made jams, marmalades and relishes. Run by Frances, her produce has blitzed the local show awards.

Jams stall.1Ribbons

jars top shot

She makes her jams and relishes from fruit trees on her own property, which is a ways out of town. What she can’t source from her own trees, she gets from other farmers in the district.

Jars closer.2 jars closer.1

I buy a jar of her spicy Tomato Relish, for $8. Perfect for hot dogs and hamburgers. (I would road test it soon!)

Frances

Exit.2

I wander outside, careful not to take any chairs, tables or furniture with me, and see a stall selling icecream. I feel like an icecream after my chicken quiche with mustard mayo.

Rebecca WS

Rebecca runs the stall and while she scoops me out a macadamia and wattleseed icecream cone, she tells me that she was given a home icecream maker several years earlier. Ever since she’s wanted to make innovative and unique icecreams.

WS scoop

My icecream is creamy, flavorsome and quickly disappears. Beautiful. And like nothing I’ve had anywhere else.

What with Ali’s chicken quiche and her home made mustard mayo, and Rebecca’s heaped icecream cone, I’m now feeling a bit full. Then I catch sight of the stall next door – the Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club cook-up.

Rotary group shot

I wander across.

Run by Amanda and David, along with Graham, they make hamburgers with sausages and eggs and bacon with fried onions, for $5.

Sausages and bacon

The money goes towards Rotary’s charitable work, and their youth programme. Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club is helping some of the young kids around town, but as well their funding goes towards helping victims of natural disasters and conflicts overseas.

Feeling charitable, I order a hamburger.

Cut now to a cross section of my stomach –

Think of it like a geological cross section of a mountain, with various strata showing the ice-age, the dinosaur age, the neolithic age, and the disco age etc…

cross section

My stomach cross section has Ali’s chicken and roasted vegetable quiche swimming in her secret mustard mayo, then on top of that is Rebecca’s macadamia and wattleseed icecream, fragmented with slightly digested bits of sugared cone, and now on top of that I’m about to put the Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club hamburger, with bacon, egg and fried onions?

Then I remember Frances’ tomato relish!

I open the jar and liberally douse the innards of the hamburger with the relish. This will either enhance the eating experience exponentially, given that the relish is from an award winning producer – or it will make me puke.

I’m so eager to try it I take a bite before I realize I haven’t taken a photo!

hamburgerThe hamburger is delicious. The relish is spicy and full of flavour. The egg and bacon aren’t too greasy – they’ve been cooked just right – and the toasted bun is fresh and yummy.

Not only that but I feel good that my $5 is going towards worthwhile charitable enterprises.

hamburger.closer

However, the whole eating experience  is now starting to sit uneasily on my stratified stomach. So I have a Coke Zero.

I find that Coke Zero is like a broad spectrum antibiotic. It lays waste to everything in its path. In this case I suspect it de-stratified my stomach. Who says that sugar chemical substitutes can’t have redeeming features?

I must say I haven’t met a Coke Zero I didn’t like.

As I walk back to my car, parked on the main drag, (yes, I was lucky enough to get a parking spot!), I think about all the markets I’ve ever been to in my travels around the world. And I wonder what it is about a market that excites me so much.

It’s the opportunity to learn more about where you are, through the remarkable people who run the stalls. And that’s what I loved about the Rylstone markets. In meeting and chatting with Ali and Frances and Rebecca and the Rotary folk, I learnt more about my country, and about the spirit of the people who live here.

So second Saturday of the month if you’re passing by, drop in to the Rylstone Artisan and Produce markets and stratify your stomach – that is, if you can get a park…

Goondiwindi – Gunsynd Bakery & Cafe

Goondiwindi (pronounced Gundawindi) is a small town on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.

Avid readers of this blog will note that it’s about 10 kms south of Boggabilla (pronounced Boggabilla), which houses the famous Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse, which in turn houses the famous Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse mixed grill.

Mixed grill

Goondiwindi is famous for Gunsynd. Gunsynd was a racehorse which came to fame in the early 1970’s. A famous Australian country & western singer wrote a famous song about the famous racehorse, called The Goondiwindi Grey. The horse was grey coloured, you see.

Gunsynd 2

We have a very famous horse race in Australia called The Melbourne Cup. They say it’s the race that stops the nation, because everyone watches the race.

Gunsynd never won it. It came third.

However, it did win many other notable races, which I won’t mention here because they are merely notable, and not famous. Avid readers of this blog will know that I only write up famous things on Bills Road Food blog. Merely notable doesn’t cut it here.

If you wander around Goodiwindi, and it’s a pleasant place to wander around when it doesn’t flood –

flooding 2flooding

You will see various Gunsynd statues, plaques, wall sized pictures in the pubs, and listings of all the notable races that it won, or came third in.

Gunsynd Statue Gunsynd

Because of my newly discovered reverence for the Goondiwindi Grey, I just had to stop in the Gunsynd Bakery & Cafe.

Ext bakery

The Gunsynd Bakery & Cafe is on the main drag leading into town from Boggabilla, and is a must-stop joint for truckers and tradies before work. It’s been trading in Goondiwindi since 1972, yet the bakery business has been in the family since the early 1900s.

Debbie Ash runs the bakery and cafe, and is 4th generation in the business. Her sons help her out, and when she finally pulls up stumps and retires after years and years of getting up at 1am every morning to bake pies and cakes, they will inherit the business and be 5th generation.

Int bakery Bread2 ladies

When I visited the Gunsynd Bakery & Cafe, there were two ladies sitting out front on plastic chairs. I had a chat with them, and they were indigenous women elders, who’d been to a big pre-Christmas dinner and dance in Boggabilla. It was a function that had attracted several hundred elders from southern Queensland and central New South Wales. They had an indigenous band playing, and bush tucker.

I wished I’d known about it – I’d have loved to have gone to it.

Cakes.1 Rudolph Cakes.2 Christmas pudding Cakes.3  Cakes.5Cake.4

The bakery makes delicious cakes – several Christmas cakes were out on display – along with Bacon & Egg toasted sambos for the tradies and truckies, all sorts of yummy pies, and Pluto Dogs. Pluto Dogs are hot dogs on a stick, deep fried. They are very popular around Goondiwindi and Boggabilla, and in some circles are considered a delicacy.

B&E rolls

The Gunsynd Bakery & Cafe is a great little family run business that makes delicious stuff for the locals, and for passing travelers, and if ever you’re in the Goondiwindi / Boggabilla district, you must stop in and say hello to Debbie and her sons.

And have a Pluto Dog.

Hot food

Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse Mixed Grill

Boggabilla is a small town just a few k’s south of the Queensland border.

Most people drive straight through, because despite its appealing name, there’s not much on offer in Boggabilla. Not on first glance. Take a second glance, and you’d put your foot on the gas and drive through even faster.

Which is why I stopped.

boggabilla general store

Boggabilla has a large aboriginal community. In fact, when my wife and I went for a walk we only saw two other white faces – both of them cops.

“What are you doing here,” one of the cops asked, suspiciously.

We didn’t look like locals. We looked like what we were, two relatively well-to-do borderline retirees looking for adventure in the Australian badlands.

“We’ve just come to take a look around,” I replied sweetly. It’s always wise to be sweet to cops, I’ve found. It confuses them. Especially if they’re stationed in Boggabilla.

The jaded and slightly bulging cop eyed my large Nikon camera, which would shortly be used with great dexterity to document my profound dining experience – the Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse mixed grill.

“Be careful,” the cop said. “They’ll know everything about you. Where you’re staying, what car you’re driving. I bet you’ve got an expensive car. I hope you got everything locked up.”

Expensive car. That’s relative. To a 1%-er, my car was not expensive. To a local living on welfare on the Boggabilla Aboriginal Mission, it probably was.

But I don’t scare easily. I’ve had quite a bit to do with aboriginal people in my time as a filmmaker, and I’ve always found them to be wonderful, spiritual people – unlike some lawyers and bankers I know, who have taken the art of thievery to an exalted level.

boggabilla girls

I pretended to make haste back to my motel. No doubt the cop thought I’d quickly pack up and move on to a less menacing town, or at the very least I’d stay awake all night in my motel room and guard my pile of worldly possessions with a plastic take-away fork, waiting for a horde of marauding Boggabilla locals to bust open the door and steal my iPhone.

In fact I walked off and found the pub.

Wobbly Boots

The Boggabilla pub is famous. It’s called The Wobbly Boot Hotel. It’s been enshrined in song, and immortalized in folklore. It sits on a T intersection, so from every window you can see eighteen-wheelers drive by, crunching down through their copious gears, then crunching back up again as they make their inexorable way to the next town, Goondiwindi.

Girl at door.2

An aboriginal girl appeared in the doorway of the pub. She wasn’t allowed in, because she was under-age, but she wanted to buy an ice-cream and a packet of chips. She didn’t have enough money though – she was short twenty cents. The publican, Paula, let her have the ice-cream and chips anyway, telling her she could pay the twenty cents next time she stopped by.

After the girl left, I paid the twenty cents. I felt good about that.

Generosity is one of my strong points.

I sat at the bar with my wife, and we watched through the windows as the huge trucks lumbered by outside – and I wondered why more people didn’t stop here. They all went through to Goondiwindi.

Goondiwindi is a nice town. A pretty town. It straddles a pleasant river, and it has manicured parks and houses that are tidy and neat. Unlike Boggabilla, the front yards of the houses in Goondiwindi aren’t full of junk and decaying cars.

Red Chair.2

Goondiwindi also has decent places to eat. There are actual restaurants in Goondiwindi. Real restaurants. Boggabilla doesn’t have any real restaurants. Boggabilla has the Shell Roadhouse.

Shell Roadhouse ext

The Shell Roadhouse is segregated. Like the Deep South in the 50s. There’s the section for us white folk, then there’s the section for the truckies.

Yes, the truckies.

The truckies have their own lounge.

As I walked in I spied the sign – Truckies Only Lounge. I had to eat there. No way was I going to eat out in the regular roadhouse diner, with all the 4WD  fraternity. 4WDs were pussies compared to eighteen wheelers.

I asked one of the staff if I could be given special dispensation to eat with the truckies. They told me the food in the lounge was the same as in the regular diner. I didn’t believe them. I just knew the food had to be better for the truckies. So I pleaded. It wasn’t pretty. But I didn’t care. I think the staff were scared I might start crying, so they reluctantly agreed to let me in.

I suspect they were reluctant because I didn’t meet the lounge’s dress code – I didn’t have any tatts.

Actually, I should have entered the lounge via the rear entrance. There’s a separate door for those truckies who park their huge rigs out the back. I walked out and counted twenty-one huge semi-trailers. Twenty-one.

Trucks.2

Any place that has twenty-one trucks parked out back has to have something going for it. Better than Trip Advisor, is what I say. Better than any foodie guide. The truckies know where to eat. They don’t stop in real restaurants in Goondiwindi. They eat in the Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse. And they order the mixed grill.

So I ordered the famous mixed grill.

The lass serving me asked what I wanted with the mixed grill. I didn’t understand the question, even though I thought we were both speaking the same language.

“Salad and chips,” she explained patiently, “or veggies and chips, or eggs and chips.”

“Can I have chips and chips?” I asked brightly.

Her brow crinkled in a frown. She took me to be what I was – a blow-in smart-arse. I thought she might call the cops. I knew them. We’d bonded. I ordered the eggs and chips, because I figured I needed the protein.

Mixed Grill.2

The mixed grill wasn’t short on protein. It was a Noah’s Ark of food. It had two of everything. Two sausages, two chops, two steaks, two rissoles, two eggs. And it was even priced at twenty-two dollars.

I gulped it down and immediately felt like I needed two stomach pumps.

But it was a classic Australian truckie’s meal. You don’t get any more classic than a mixed grill from the Boggabilla Shell Roadhouse, eating it in the Truckies Only lounge.

So even though I walked out seriously considering converting to vegetarianism, I chalked it up as a memorable road-food experience. I went back to my motel and spent the night nervously guarding my worldly possessions, and in the morning I set off.

As I passed the Wobbly Boot Hotel and turned towards Goondiwind, I changed down gears and pretended for a moment I was a truckie…

Trucks on wall