Crisp days – sometimes with beautiful clear skies heralding starry icy nights and below zero temperatures. For the ducks, gliding in on the thin morning ice of the lagoon has almost become a habit. Our own long walks, take in rushing streams, lichen covered branches and misty quiet forests. But the gold of local wattles is now in evidence everywhere. There’s a frequent touch of wood smoke in the air. Guests return from rambles, dropping layers of coats, scarves and gloves as they head for the warmth and delicious drops of the library bar. Single malts, Cognacs and Armagnacs seem to be the order of the chilly early evenings. Our cooking, a little slower and richer, is greening up with early broad beans and brassicas.
For many local farms this is a period of preparation for the planting of the new season. However beautiful salad leaves – coloured Mizunas, Bronze Fennel, Golden Elk as well as cresses and mustard leaves are plentiful. And we are making the most of the peak season for nettle tips.
It’s also citrus time and the tubs on our terraces are absolutely laden. They make for a wonderful aromatic harvest with the masses of rosemary and bay in our garden. Our bees appear to be managing the months of cold well, with no need for supplementary feeding.
Lambing and calving season is in full flight in the region. You’ll be sure to spot lots of new hairy infants in local paddocks.
But as cooks, we’re already dreaming of the imminent arrival of new season’s asparagus and hoping for early wild morels. Whatever our plans Mother Nature, ever unpredictable, will need to co-operate.
Click on the link above to listen to Alla Wolf-Tasker AM - Culinary Director and Chair of Daylesford Macedon Produce on ABC Melbourne with Lindy Burns. They talk all about local food and the DMP Harvest Festival. Main interview between 07.10 and 23.00.
MasterChef returns to Lake House
In a very tough Pressure Test the Top Five contestants cooked five dishes from the Lake House menu under Alla's guidance - pressure was an understatement!
Click here to watch the episode!
Gourmet Traveller 50 most influential people in food
THE POWER LIST
Looking back over the past five decades, it's clear that the way we dine today has been defined by a great variety of Australians. In considering who's making the waves today that we'll still be feeling 50 years from now, we looked not just to chefs, but to restaurateurs, farmers, authors, wine folk, butchers and designers. We're looking at the picture from the ground up - not at the giants whose shoulders today's pioneers stand upon, but at the people who are doing the job today, from the veterans to the new blood. They're an inspiring bunch, and they've got even more to give.
Alla Wolf-Tasker – Chef, restaurateur, industry advocate
This destination-dining pioneer opened Lake house in then-backwater Daylesford, Victoria, more than 30 years ago and has been championing the region, small-scale producers and a seasonal-regional mantra ever since. Hugely supportive of young chefs, heavily involved in the industry at every level including government, and unafraid to tackle bureaucracy when need be, she has a stack of awards, but leading by example – keeping Lake House at the top of its game for decades – is her greatest achievement.
What will the next 50 years hold for food in Australia?
“The desire to know where your food comes from and the avoidance of processed food is building momentum. I’d love to think that it will become our chief motivation around food in the future – even if only because it will mean we’ll need to build fewer hospitals.”
JOIN OUR KITCHEN TEAM
Are you thrilled by the 'curtain up' excitement of a busy service? Do you have a great work ethic and real 'fire in the belly' for our profession? Are you intent on perfecting every plate? Is your bedside table covered with cookbooks and is your phone permanently scouring the culinary possibilities of global gastronomic thinking? And can you COOK? Send us your details [email protected]. We are located in beautiful Daylesford & surrounded by many excellent specialty growers & producers. No breast beating cowboys please. We leave our egos outside the door. Excellent career development opportunities. Visa assistance if necessary.
Herald Sun Weekend
The Hot 100 ALLA WOLF-TASKER
Lake House Daylesford proprietor and national delicious. mag produce awards judge
Sharon Flynn and Roger Fowler produce a range of milk and water kefirs, kimchi and krauts using time-honoured, slow fermented techniques. Their "cellar door” is now in Fairfield but, having made their start in our region, we claim them as our own. Our guests at Lake House love the fig and ginger kefir, and their smoky jalapeno kraut is outstanding.
We know of the benefits of free-range chooks. But the breeds of meat chickens traditionally grown in Australia often have riot been bred to cope with, and thrive in true free-range pasture-rearing environments. Enter Sommerlad chickens, a unique slow-growing new breed. They are processed at 13 to 14 weeks and have a rich flavour and texture. At Milking Yard Farm, down the road from Lake House, they roam in forested areas and graze on wild grubs, seeds, grits, and organic feed.
HOLY GOAT LA LUNA
Two years ago when I last cooked in NYC, I took with me a terrific local organic cheese that even had jaded New Yorkers talking. Consistent winner of major awards and now a permanent member of various halls of fame, La Luna remains the brilliant flagship cheese of the Holy Goat enterprise.
YARRA VALLEY CAVIAR
Yarra Valley freshwater aquaculture farm takes a natural approach to rearing and milking its Atlantic salmon — refusing to use antibiotics or chemicals. Its fish are given plenty of space to swim, are milked by hand, and are then gently returned to their ponds in the pristine waters of the Victorian Alps of the Yarra Valley ranges. The result is a global-standard product both in quality, best practice and sustainability.
SNOWY RIVER STATION SUCCULENTS
Years ago, for me, any coastal excursion V1185 an opportunity to do foraging for seashore succulents and seaweeds. Samphire was a real prize, adding saltiness and ocean flavour to dishes on our menus. Andrew French has since arrived with his left-field solution for the salt-damaged portion of his grazing property in East Gippsland. Andrew is one of only a handful of farmers in the world cultivating samphire.
Alla Wolf-Tasker has helped shape the face of regional dining in Australia. She speaks to BeanScene about establishing a culinary destination and making coffee fashionable.
For many, coffee making is a morning ritual and habitual enjoyment. But for Alla Wolf-Tasker, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of acclaimed restaurant Lake House, watching her mother make coffee as an after-dinner ritual was a magical ceremonial task.
“My mother had a much-treasured china coffee set which included a hand-painted tall pot and eight beautiful tiny demitasse cups and saucers. It was brought out for special occasions,” she says. “A moka pot filled with coffee, freshly ground in our hand-cranked ancient grinder, was put on the stove. The magic bubbling commenced soon after, as did the mysterious aromas that filled the air. When complete, the contents of the moka pot were transferred to the heated china coffee pot.”
The serving of the coffee was just as memorable, often served with a small glass of liqueur and chocolates.
Eventually, Alla says the day came when an electric filter pot replaced her family’s faithful moka pot.
“It seemed more fashionable to serve coffee direct from the very new and modern-looking Pyrex heat-resistant jug. However, those wonderous aromas were never quite as apparent ever again. Even my mother remarked on how awful the coffee was when it sat and stewed for a while,” she says.
The next phase in Alla’s family’s coffee making evolution was instant coffee, which somehow “snuck” into the house. First it was Nescafé, then Moccona. Nowadays there’s no such evidence of instant coffee in Alla’s Daylesford home in country Victoria.
A E61 Faema “Legend” coffee machine, first released in 1961, is plumbed into Alla’s kitchen bench and makes a “mean coffee”. But to start the day, Alla enjoys a flat white after her morning walk at either Wombat Hill House café or the Lake House.
Alla admits she’s a sucker for a really good flaky croissant to accompany her morning caffeine hit.
“That milky coffee and croissant ritual was first embedded in my DNA in France as a very young woman. I do compensate for this bit of wickedness by alternating with our house-made muesli and yoghurt,” she says.
Following her morning coffee hit Alla indulges in two or three espresso shots throughout the day, sometimes even a macchiato. Any more than that and her sleep tends to suffer.
Alla has travelled the world in pursuit of the best food experiences. Consequentially, coffee bars have contribute to those memories. Outside of her beloved Australia, Alla says nothing can compare to Italy’s love for quick coffee service and delicious espresso.
“The Italians remain the masters. It’s hard to get a bad coffee anywhere in that country,” she says. “I love that wonderful morning rush in any of their great cities – standing at the bar in a little baccaro for a beautiful double shot with the hum of conversation all around. I’ve done that in Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, and many of the minor cities. You just can’t beat that buzz and that sense of both expectation and appreciation of a really beautiful coffee.”
Alla has watched the rise of the café evolution around the globe. To some they are merely places to refuel, to others they are about dedicated coffee appreciation, and for Alla, they spell relaxation.
“Unlike restaurants [going to a café] is never about research. It’s often about catching up with someone – work colleagues or friends. I love that cafés have become such a great part of our landscape,” she says.
In fact, Wombat Hill House café is part of Alla’s own landscape, situated high on an ancient volcano overlooking the village of Daylesford. It utilises the same well-sourced produce as Lake House restaurant, and prides itself on serving fresh Allpress coffee.
Nov 11, 2015
Alla Wolf-Tasker on her colleague's decision to stop farming his prized wagyu.
Ten years ago I was honoured to be selected as a national judge for the delicious. Produce Awards. I have served on that panel ever since and been privileged to meet and get to know many of Australia’s best producers. There is no doubt the program has been a game changer in terms of fostering sustainable food production practices in our country.
Australia’s wagyu producers were amongst our very first ‘from the paddock’ entrants. The stellar produce from David Blackmore was already familiar to most of the judges and in our blind tastings it continually ranked No. 1.
Blackmore had pioneered the production of 100% full-blood wagyu in Australia and had imported more than 80% of the wagyu genetics into this country. His wagyu herd grazed the green pastures and river plains of the high country near Alexandra, was bred, fed and marketed by Blackmore and exported to 14 countries.
Wagyu being part of the delicious. Produce Awards was not without controversy. There was much debate among the judges and in fact among the industry as to whether wagyu production with its intensive feeding approach could meet the required sustainability protocols of the Produce Awards. David Blackmore had already made inroads in developing an environmentally sustainable supply chain, following a natural slow production process that took 4 years to complete. His innovative approach had already led to best practices beyond the requirements of Australian regulatory bodies in the areas of animal welfare, land quality and water efficiency.
In 2007 after previously winning his category on several occasions, David Blackmore was named Producer of the Year and became the inaugural member of the Produce Awards Hall of Fame for setting new benchmarks in innovation.
Blackmore had, however, heard the various concerns raised over wagyu farming and was determined to do more, all the while stilling naysayer suggestions that further sustainability improvements would stall growth and be detrimental to the herd. He set about creating a new single standard that could set a new benchmark for on-farm feeding and animal production. He removed the wagyu animals from a feedlot environment to his own farm where they continued to be grown sustainably. Raised on their mothers until they were weaned his animals had access to pasture and were fed a supplementary non grain ration for 600+ days. The ration was made from natural commodities that are by-products of human food production.
With 25 animals per 5 acre paddock Blackmore’s rejection of a feedlot environment for his cattle and a return to their natural pastures meant he now had control over the environment in which the animals were raised and control over their humane management and welfare. Blackmores eco-feeding® standard implemented the maximum best practise standards for animal production, once again far exceeding industry requirements. Needless to say all this innovation was costly. Considerable investment was made. And the quality of the product and the well-being of the herd? If at all possible Blackmore’s beef became even better and his herd visibly thrived. I was privileged to cook with his product in NYC at two events promoting Victorian produce. It was brilliantly received.
In 2013 Blackmore was named Legend by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The Legends Program honours people, who have given a lifetime of passion and outstanding dedication to the food and wine industry and celebrates professionals who have enriched and contributed to the vibrant food and wine culture through making a significant difference to the way the industry operates. It would seem that there was much to celebrate – stellar globally acclaimed produce and benchmarking global sustainable best practice.
It was with considerable disbelief that I learnt yesterday that David Blackmore has given up his fight and withdrawn his application before Victoria’s planning minister to continue farming his way. Blackmore will in fact cease farming and his prize herd will be moved interstate. What fight you might well ask? Newly arrived neighbours and a government that seems out of touch with best practice sustainable agribusiness have combined to create a prolonged and seemingly unwinnable battle despite petitions from many of Blackmore’s supporters. A lack of vision, no eye for innovative practice and the inevitable ensuing red tape have broken the back of yet another enterprising innovative farming concern. Victoria punches far above its weight in food production it also has the potential to lead the world in innovative best practice sustainable small scale agriculture.
We need the Blackmores of this world. I’m deeply saddened and troubled by this turn of events. If this, rather than accolades is the reward for great personal investment and innovative thinking then we’re truly doomed .
Outstanding Contribution by an Individual - The Victorian Tourism Awards
Oustanding Contribution to Hospitality - Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards
Click here to read about Alla's Gourmet Traveller award.
Follow Alla on Instagram - click the camera icon below!
Take a look at when Masterchef came to Lake House in 2014!
Click here to see the pressure test episode featuring Lake House signature dish - Rivers & Lakes.
Click here for the episode featuring a Masterclass on location at our beautiful house on the lake.