What’s new at Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2017

In just over one week the best food festival in the country kicks off, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. It’s held from 16 to 19 November 2017 will see over 60 culinary superstars host 50 epic events in 25 extraordinary locations in the Margaret River region.

Let’s take a look at what’s new and what not to miss:

1. No GEMS!!

That’s right folks, at the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate you can tap and go using your own Visa, Mastercard or AMEX – no need to get a GEM plastic card and top it up. Then find a cashier and top it up some more. Just normal tap and go paywave. Alleluia! The Village is cashless this year, so make sure you bring your own plastic to pay with. This makes me so happy.

2. High life – helicopter to secret location 

Everyone loves a secret location. Throw in a scenic helicopter ride and a foraging expedition with renowned local chef Paul Iskov, a true culinary talent from Fervor, and this will be one event you’ll never forget.

I’ve been fortunate to go foraging with Paul “Yoda” Iskov in the Kimberley and it’s a magical experience. Paul and his team from Fervor connect with local Aboriginal elders and with them, go out onto country to learn about the native ingredients and food of the traditional owners, the most ancient culture on the planet. Paul forages under their guidance and respects the land just as their ancestors have done for 40,000 years. It’s a privilege to witness and completely fascinating.

That aside, Paul, 33, is an award-winning chef whose CV that reads like the who’s-who of the culinary world. He’s worked under renowned chef Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amuse and has done stints at some of Australia’s best restaurants including Tetsuya’s, Quay, Becasse, Vu De Monde and Marque.

Further afield, Paul has worked in revered overseas kitchens including Coi in San Francisco, Eleven Madison Park in New York, Test Kitchen in Cape town, Pujol in Mexico City, with Alex Atala at D.O.M in San Paulo and under René Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen, the latter ranked the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Paul has the pedigree to be arrogant but he’s the complete opposite – a humble gentle human who plays a leading role in changing what Australians eat.

Paul Iskov

Paul “Yoda” Iskov

Only available to a select few, after disembarking from the chopper, guests will be greeted with a cocktail of native foraged ingredients, crafted by new wave mixologist Vijay Mudaliar from Singapore’s Native cocktail bar.

You’ll dine under the bright south-west sky, surrounded by the spectacular natural environment as you enjoy a meal of exquisitely-crafted dishes that embody native, local and fresh produce accompanied by Margaret River wines.

Tickets $750. Expensive yes, but an absolutely once-in-a-lifetime experience no avid foodie – especially those into native food – would want to miss. For more information about The High Life click here.


3. Dinner at Lamonts Smiths Beach with superchef Pierre Koffman

A new dinner event has been added this year: Three’s Company: A Mod-European Dinner at Lamonts Smiths Beach with special guest Pierre Koffman on Saturday 18th November.

Who’s Pierre Koffmann I hear you ask? He is a legend. His restaurant in Chelsea in London, La Tante Claire, was awarded the maximum three Michelin stars (closed in 2003) and he mentored some of the best in the business including previous Gourmet Escape headline chef Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.

Kate Lamont is a familiar name; she’s one of Western Australia’s most successful chefs, and her sleek, modern dining space at Smith’s Beach celebrates her love of fresh, local produce. Joining Kate in the kitchen for this special event is award-winning Brit chef Kirk Westaway, whose commitment to creating a harmonious interplay of tastes and textures has earned his Singaporean dining room, JAAN, the number 42 spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List for 2017. Enjoy a mod-euro feast featuring the very best of seasonal ingredients matched to Lamont’s famously full-bodied wines.

Tickets $280 per person. For more information about Three’s Company click here

Pierre Koffman and Kirk Westaway Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2017

Pierre Koffman and Kirk Westaway

4. Regional Flavours at Amelia Park Winery Restaraunt

I’m super excited for this event. Firstly, because I’ve not been to Amelia Park before and so many have said it’s excellent. Secondly, Matt Stone!  Joining Matt Stone is his partner, rising young female chef, Jo Barrett (Oakridge Wines) who’ll prepare a special lunch showcasing the region’s finest flavours and locally foraged ingredients at the newly opened Amelia Park Winery Restaurant. Jo and Matt will partner with the restaurant’s owners, Blair and Renee Allen for the Regional Flavours lunch on Friday 17th November.

Tickets $280. For more information about Regional Flavours at Amelia Park Winery Restaurant click here.

Matt Stone

Matt Stone

5. Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ with Shane Delia

Who else loves Middle Eastern food? On Sunday, behind the BBQ on the tools for both lunch and dinner is Shane Delia (Maha in Melbourne), a chef who specialises in Middle Eastern flavours. Does he look familiar? Probably, he has his own show on TV, Shane Delia’s Spice Journey. Rick Stein will also join Shane on Sunday evening for a Q&A as the sun sets on another epic festival.

Shane Delia

The Beach BBQ is always a crowd favourite and sold out completely last year, so the organisers added extra sessions this year.

Included is privileged access to Castle Rock Beach, which is just such a stunning setting with the teepee style tents right on the sand, cocktail and canapés on arrival, free-flowing beer and wine and – last but not least – a feast of help-yourself gourmet BBQ delights. There’s a band too so you can dance the day or night away as you soak up the laid-back beach vibe of this strikingly beautiful A Class Reserve within the Meelup Regional Park. Not only is it heaps of fun, but it’s one of the very few opportunities to enjoy dinner, drinks and a party on the sand.

Tickets $225. For more info about the Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ, click here.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2017 Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ

6. At the Gourmet Village

See no.1 above for no GEMS!

New to the Gourmet Village restaurant line up with tasty dishes from $8 to $12:

  • Lucky Chan’s (Perth) – I love their udon noodle soups in Perth
  • Má Là Dumplings (Margaret River) – seriously the best dumplings ever made with top quality local produce. Watch that homemade chilli sauce, she’s hot alright!

Also new is the World’s Best Chef’s Table. Meet and eat with some of the World’s Top 50 Chefs. Hosted by acclaimed food writer Jill Dupleix, guests can savour a glass of the region’s best wine alongside 2017 Best Female Chef Ana Ros, Alex Atala (one of my chef heros), David Thompson and Ashley Palmer-Watts as they create a dish using WA produce, then tuck in and enjoy the meal together. Tickets $80.

Make your own gin! New this year, you can enrol in Giniversity where you’ll learn the art of gin making and go away with your very own 100ml bottle. How many people can say that they’ve made their own gin? Tickets $85.

Lurpak Cookery School is new this year where you’ll be hands-on cooking with one of my all time favourites, chef Tony Howell. Chef Tone carved a name for himself as one of the country’s best during his 15-year tenure at Cape Lodge. He’ll be holding 30-minute cooking classes all weekend at the village using Lurpak’s premium butter – be sure to book in as soon as you get there or get a ticket in advance, just $10. And you get to eat what you cook. Winning!

Jack Stein (Born to Cook) and world surfing legend Taj Burrow present the best of ‘after surf food’ paired with brews from Honest Ale. Honest Ale is Taj’s own label launched earlier this year with surfing mates Dino Adrian and Jay Davies. The lads will bring their international travels to the stage using local produce to create global favourites with a local twist. I love Taj and never thought I’d see him on a cooking stage – he’s a character and so is Jack Stein. I interviewed Jack last year and I’m telling you, he has so many funny stories. This should be a laugh.

Calling Coffee Nerds: This new free event, the Karvan Coffee’s Coffee Acadamy will teach you things about coffee you didn’t know. And it’s free! But you need to book a spot.

Butcher’s Block -learn about cuts of meat: I love this and it’s free! Meat and Livestock Australia presents The Butcher’s Block in association with Food Network where you’ll learn from two previous MasterChef contestants and Food Network TV presenters Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne

Natural wine – Everyone’s into natural this, organic that (yours truly included, and no, I’m not a hipster) and wine is no exception. Learn about wild fermentation and natural winemaking as you swirl and sniff at the Masters and Makers sessions; check the website for details.

Free entry for kids under 12 to the Gourmet Village all weekend – another first – and there’ll be plenty of activities in the Kids Corner, which will be jam-packed with educational foodie entertainment.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2017 - Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate

First timer?

Check out my post to guide first-timers to the Margaret River Gourmet Escape Village.


For more information on this year’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape visit www.gourmetescape.com.au.

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Ones to watch in Margaret River – Credaro and Food by the Chef

Last night, Travelletto was invited to a special one-off underground event at Credaro winery in Margaret River, Western Australia with food prepared by young-gun George Cooper of Food by the Chef.

Both Credaro and Cooper fly under the radar in the region which is rich with fantastic producers and restaurants. I don’t think that’ll be the case for much longer.

I learned that the Credaro family have been in the region since 1922, and like all good Italian immigrants, they planted a veggie garden and a plot of vines so they could make their own wine. So really, they could be considered one of the original private wineries in the region. Credaro began supplying established wineries with grapes in the 1980s and created their own label in 2009. Nowadays, the Credaro family manages 140 hectares of vines over seven separate vineyards across Margaret River in the sub-regions of Wilyabrup, Carbunup, Treeton, Yallingup and Wallcliffe. The cellar door on Caves Road in Yallingup opened five years ago. Downstairs, underground in the barrel room, is where 50 of us feasted on a six course dinner prepared by Food by the Chef with matched Credaro wines.

The underground cellar was set beautifully with two long wooden tables with greenery and candles running down the centre. The pass was at the front of the room, putting on a show as the team from Food by the Chef carefully plated, smoked and finished dishes. The atmosphere was intimate yet lively as evidenced by the acoustics. The cellar could do with some sound cushioning to absorb some noise. Cooper introduced each dish and Credaro wine maker Trent Kelly introduced each wine.


The Credaro Food by the Chef Menu:


Credaro sparkling 2017

Into the Woods – mushroom soup topped with parfait rolled in pine needles



‘Cromer Crab Sandwich’ – local crab, cucumber, sour cream paired with 5 Tales Pinot Gris


Marron, ‘kale risotto’, kohlrabi, and shallot paired with 2015 1000 Crowns Chardonnay

Native ravioli, Davidson plum, artichoke, watercress and smoke paired with a 2014 Kinship Fragola

Lamb neck, lilli pilly, macadamia and wild leek paired with 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

‘Chocolate yogo’ plum pudding, paired with 2016 Kinship Shiraz

‘Norma’s fruit cake’ – white chocolate, marscapone and mandarin paired with a 2017 Gewurztraminer

I’ve not knowingly tried George Cooper’s food before although I’ve heard he’s worked at Wills Domain, Vasse Felix and at Cape Lodge; three of the region’s best restaurants. His food is that of a young ambitious chef, out to impress which he did last night, dish after dish. He even collected water from Geographe Bay to make his own salt. Yes, his own salt. Who does that? Someone passionate about every detail, that’s who.

Cooper’s flavour combinations were wonderful and he is passionate about using local ingredients including native ingredients and included wattle seed, salt bush and lilli pilly in his menu last night. The 29-year-old chef who trained in Birmingham is one to watch. Expect to see and hear more about George Cooper.

It was a fantastic night and I was super impressed with the not-yet-released and museum collection Credaro wines matched to each dish. Credaro’s Chardonnay scored 97 points from James Halliday and I’d have to say it was worthy. I loved the Fragola, a varietal I’ve not seen anywhere else in Margaret River. It’s a light easy drinking red wine that reminded me very much of the sort of house wine offered in a trattoria in Italy.




2715 Caves Road,
Yallingup WA 6282
+61 (08) 9756 6520

Food by the Chef
Private dinners, weddings, events, cooking master classes – visit website for details

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Things are looking up for Northam

If you’re looking for something different to do, perhaps a drive into the country, then look no further than Northam, where the skies above will be adorned with 30 beautiful hot air balloons for the National Ballooning Championships.

For one week from Saturday 2nd to 9th September, international, interstate and local hot air balloon pilots will descend on the Avon Valley, testing their skills at varying winds and altitudes. It’s also the perfect opportunity for boost your Instagram account with stunning photos of golden-hour skies dotted with colourful balloons.

Northam is 97 kilometres east-northeast of Perth, or about an hour’s drive. Situated on the banks of the Avon River, Northam was gazetted as a town in 1836, making it second only to Fremantle in terms of numbers of significant historical buildings. The visitors centre runs a bus tour of the historical buildings too.

Public festivities for the National Ballooning Championships commence at 4pm on Saturday 2 September with the Northam Balloon Fiesta followed by the visually stunning Balloon Glow after dark at the Henry Street Oval, weather permitting.

The free Fiesta will include a live stage show, balloon discovery zone, carnival rides, game zone, markets, food and drinks and show bags.

The competition balloons will fire up in all their glory with musical accompaniment at approximately 7.30pm with a fireworks finale.

Each day enthusiasts can see the balloons flying across the rolling hills and valleys at dawn and again in the afternoon if weather conditions are suitable.

Spectating opportunities are available at various locations around Northam. Balloons will launch at around sunrise each morning and fly until approximately 9am.

Another highlight is the Key Grab competition on Saturday 9 September. This is a flying task for the balloons departing from the Northam Airfield at first light. Pilots fly from point to point, collecting foam ‘keys’ from the end of 10metre poles in several locations.

For more information visit http://www.northamnationals.com, email info@northamnationals.com or receive updates on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/northamnationals and Instagram @northamnationals.

The 2017 National Ballooning Championships is proudly supported by the State Government through Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, The Shire of Northam, and other local sponsors – this is just one reason by the Government’s Royalties for Regions funding is so important for Western Australia, it supports so many terrific regional events including the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster and Taste Great Southern.

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Margaret River’s newest winter festival: Cabin Fever

Margaret River’s newest winter festival Cabin Fever is about to kick off with 35 events set to take place between July 14 and 23 throughout the Margaret River region.

Events include celebrity chef Guy Grossi in Residence at Voyager Estate (just a handful of tickets left), Cocoa Nuts with Cavalcade Desserts, Four Elements Feast at Arimia , a cheese and wine pairing at Happs Wines, a bacon and Bloody Mary breakfast at Piari & Co, a beer, whisky and chocolate appreciation event at Eagle Bay Brewing Co, a ping pong tournament at The Pourhouse, Backyard Brewing Tournament, Fondue by the Fire at Howard Park, secret speakeasy, Wilyabrup Cooking Class and Log Table Lunch and an opportunity to sample rare back-vintage cabernets at Cape Grace Wines.
Guy GrossieFestival Director Brianna Delaporte said she wanted to position Cabin Fever as a unique food and wine event.

“There will be blazing bonfire nights accompanied by cold brews, a 1920s inspired speakeasy, a pop-up espresso martini bar, fondue by the fire, knife-sharpening workshops, farm walks, charcoal-cooked meats, all accompanied by delicious Margaret River wine,” Ms Delaporte said.

The event encourages locals and visitors alike to put hibernation on hold this winter. With a packed event schedule that has a good mix of free and ticketed events, almost all centred around food, wine and beer, it sounds like a good idea to me!

To view the program or download a copy, visit www.cabinfeverfest.com.au

Cavalcade Chocolates

Make your own chocolate truffle with Cavalcade Chocolates




Cabin Fever
14-23 July, 2017


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Mixing holidays with fitness – Revive Retreat

I’ve just come back from a week in Bali. I’d like to say I was blissing-out poolside with daily massages and facials, but truth be known I was also sweating buckets while punishing my body at a fitness retreat. With encouragement from a girlfriend, I signed up to go on the week-long Revive Fitness Retreat at the Komune Resort in Bali. I’m not a huge fan of Bali, but what got me over the line was that the Komune Resort is far away from the hectic and gritty tourist-laden Bali that I don’t like. It’s at Keramas Beach by a surf break, about 20 minutes drive north of Sanur on the east coast of Bali (the other side of the island from Kuta and Seminyak).

Here’s a short video of our week:

We arrived at the resort at about 2pm, by the time we checked in and got to our lovely beach-view pool room, we had just 45 minutes before we had to front up to our first training session in the resort’s well-equipped gym.

Let’s backtrack a little. I want to be fit, I really do, but I’m not. I do yoga regularly which I love but the thought of slogging it out in a gym or jogging or doing triathlons (no way!) makes me shudder. The way I see it is that it’s just not fun. But every so often I get all enthused about getting fit and start going to the gym, then a few weeks later I stop, then get out of the rhythm of going and before I know it, three months pass and all I’ve done is walk the dog.

I took comfort knowing of the ten ladies on the retreat, eight were in their 30s and 40s, and two were in their 60s. Little did I know that these women were all regulars at the gym in the Margaret River region owned by Katie, a sweet but punishing trainer and yoga instructor. Katie’s partner in the Revive Retreat is nutritionist and trainer Sarah.

That first training session would’ve been an eye opener … if I was able to open my eyes. Instead, my eyes were winced shut as I squatted, jumped, pushed, lifted, squeezed and burpeed my way through 60 tough minutes. I almost spewed but managed not to. I must’ve lost 2kg in sweat, but I did feel pretty proud of myself for being able to mostly keep up with the gang. Katie and Sarah kept a close eye on me to ensure I was okay, training hard enough and using good technique. They also encouraged me a lot – it’s amazing how three simple words can help: ‘Good work Di’. That’s the beauty of having two trainers and ten participants – you get plenty of attention (but you also can’t slacken off!).

On return to our room, I jumped straight into our private pool and let the cool water work magic on my screaming muscles. I knew I was going to be in a world of pain the following day.

That first training session was one of the hardest. We trained with intensity like that most days, but the sessions were mixed up; sometimes in the morning during sunrise on the grassy area by the beach, sometimes in the gym, sometimes doing HIIT or weight circuits but always hardcore sweat-inducing training. We also had some stretch sessions, yoga in the open-air pavilion overlooking the ocean and foam roller sessions (so painful but gee I felt amazing afterwards). However, it wasn’t all working out and yoga.

We climbed a mountain (well, most of us did), Mount Batur which is one of Bali’s volcanoes, went for a long stand up paddle in a calm bay in Sanur, did a challenging high ropes course with flying foxes, tight ropes, swaying bridge walks and rope wall climbs at the Tree Top Adventure Park, and my favourite, we visited the Balinese Farm Cooking School set on acres of lush beautiful vegetable gardens with a well-set-up cooking school, situated near Ubud.

As part of our package, we had a voucher to use the resort’s day spa, and ample free time to book in other treatments during the week; I had a fantastic facial, Balinese massage, body scrub and pedicure. We had dinner in Sanur one night, some time to shop in Ubud, and time to chill out by the adult-only pool.

We ate really well too, as you’d expect. The Komune Resort has a healthy menu for those on retreats like us. Just about everything I ate was delicious – sesame crusted tuna and organic green leaf salad, poached eggs with pumpkin, feta and charred asparagus, and a really satisfying roast vegetable bowl with chicken satay. We were able to choose a fresh juice with each meal – the Inflammation Buster with pineapple and ginger was my favourite, and our package included a protein smoothie each day. I’m delighted to report that dinner time commenced with a cocktail or Bintang – yay for holidays!

It’s also worth noting that Katie and Sarah gave some interesting talks on nutrition, health and fitness and we all had one-on-one time to discuss our goals, blocks and strategies to reach those goals. We were all given a health journal and a manual that includes training programs and lots of useful information.

I was stiff and sore for the entire week, at one point unable to raise my arms above my head because my shoulder muscles were in agony. Despite the muscle soreness, by the end of the week, I felt amazing. My skin was glowing, I looked less bloated, felt stronger, I was a little more tanned but the best thing is that I left feeling inspired and motivated. It was the kickstart I needed to get my butt moving this winter. The added bonus is that I left with new friends. It’s the perfect program that mixes a holiday with fitness. The next Bali fitness retreat is 12th to 18th August 2017.




Revive Retreat

Revive regular runs health retreats (focus on fat loss) in the Margaret River Region and fitness retreats in Bali. The next fitness retreat in Bali is 12-18 August and early bird prices $2,590 twin share, all inclusive. (I spent less than $200 during the week, mostly on spa treatments and drinks).

For more, visit the Revive website


I paid to attend this retreat and did not receive any incentive or discount to write about it. I had a great time and reckon you might too.

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