The Yarra Valley, Victoria's oldest wine growing region, is just 50km east of the centre of Melbourne. It offers a blend of cool forests and lush farm lands, with the Yarra River as its centrepiece. Its reputation as one of the world's great wine regions, with growing interest in its fine foods, it is a wonderful escape from the city.
The area's list of produce is overwhelming cheeses, jams, chutneys, chocolate, jellies, spring water, breads, olive oils, game meats, salmon, trout, cold meat, sausages, salami, ice-cream, fresh pasta, a huge range of fruits, their juices and purees, including a superb variety of berries and stone fruits.
There are more than 55 wineries open for tastings and purchases. The first vines were planted in 1838 at Yering Station. Disease wiped out the fledgling industry and it wasn't until the last 1860s that it took hold again.
Stephen Hollis of Healesville Main Street Butchers specialises in smallgoods, including bacon, ham, salami and cooked meats. He won Best Bacon in 2005 and his trophy is proudly displayed.
Visit Peter Rose at his Gourmet Yabby Farm to taste some of the sweetest yabby meat you could dream about. Visitors are welcome to drop by and catch their own.
Brad Harvey of Brad's Produce is Australia's leading supplier of delicious zucchini flowers. They can be stuffed, steamed, roasted or fried and are sure to tempt the palate. The zucchini is one of the world's oldest vegetables, and if you would like to cook some from Brad and Ben's recipe, details are below.
Brad's Produce zucchini flowers
8 zucchini flowers
8 slices of prosciutto or bacon
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ a brown onion, finely chopped
2 sprigs of oregano, chopped
½ tablespoon of lemon juice
½ cup of olive oil
salt and pepper
Wrap flowers in prosciutto and set aside. Combine garlic, onion, oregano, lemon juice, oil salt and pepper. Place the flowers in the mixture for 30 minutes. Heat a hot plate and grill flowers on medium heat for 5-8 minutes, trying to keep flower ends away from direct heat.
The Healesville Hotel was built in 1910 and has recently been beautifully restored. It has been awarded Country Restaurant of the Year! The Wine Room is a casual bistro-style area which serves the popular local brew, Hargreaves Hill Pale, on tap.
Hargreaves Hill ales are brewed with rainwater and contain no artificial preservatives or additives. Its brewers are passionate and are constantly refining recipes and procedures to ensure the consumer enjoys the most naturally flavoursome fine ale.
Harvest Farm, a seven-hectare property just outside Healesville, is owned and operated by Healesville Hotel. The luxurious farmhouse is in a private garden of oaks, roses, camellias and rhododendrons.
It has seclusion and luxury for up to four guests and oozes old-time character blended with modern luxury and topped off with mountain views.
There are two king bedrooms, large bathroom with spa and French windows taking full advantage of the garden and pastureland.
The kitchen has an oven, cooktop, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator and original woodstove. There are masses of flowers from the garden, handmade local soaps, freshly ground coffee and loose leaf teas.
The open plan living area has French doors leading to a terrace and barbecue area. Just sink into the deckchairs and soak in the views and perfumes. In summer, the terrace is ideal for twilight cocktails and dining. A huge chocolate suede couch is perfect for relaxing in front of a cosy wood fire.