Over time we have found self catering to be the cheapest and easiest way to travel with The Princess. Self catering means we have more space to stretch out at the end of a busy day, and that we can get The Princess to bed at a reasonable hour rather than hanging out in restaurants waiting for meals to arrive. This last point is crucial if we are not to spend the following day with Princess Bitchface.
We have just returned from a two week self catering tour of Tasmania, and it appears that all the rumours are true. Tasmania is a stunning place with a wealth of amazing produce. Unfortunately we found that much of this produce is yet to find its way into the local cafes and restaurants, particularly in the smaller towns. By self catering we could buy directly from producers, usually at a fraction of the cost of purchasing from stores or restaurants.
Tasmania has a thriving farm gate industry. So much so that the Tasmania Fruit Growers Association has developed an app to help locate fruit growers as you travel around. This was invaluable to us as we had arrived at the height of the berry and cherry season. Keep an eye out for small handmade road signs indicating surplus produce for sale. Many bags of cherries entered our car this way.
Another great resource that lived on the dashboard of our hire car was The Field Guide to Tasmanian Produce. This beautiful book is divided into regions to assist in locating produce, and helped us discover a number of growers and producers I had not seen mentioned in any of my pre-trip research.
Our trip started in Hobart, took us south to Port Arthur, then north to Launceston via Bicheno. As I was on holiday too, we did buy a few pre-prepared options so the cooking was kept to a minimum. Some of our best finds were:
- Salamanca Markets: If you are a hard core foodie this is not really the place for you. Much of the market is dedicated to craft and souvenirs, with a few food stalls and producers scattered in between. We did find one stall at the far eastern end of Salamanca Place selling sourdough bread and cooked family size pies, both vegetarian and meat, that were perfect for reheating for dinner. If you are after a food market, make a beeline instead for –
- Hobart Farm Gate Market: Stallholders are closely vetted at this market, and only producers are allowed to ply their wares. This is a bustling thriving market, with beautiful raw produce and a good choice of pre-prepared items. Keep an eye out for the fish cakes from George Town Seafoods and the tasty slow food from Sirocco South. We highly recommend the gnudi and the Pork and Cabbage Rolls.
- Bruny Island: The obvious draw card is the Bruny Island Cheese Company. By all means drop in, pick up some O.D.O to stir through pasta, and make sure you leave with at least one loaf of their crusty bread under your arm. However there is so much more to see on the island. Stop in at the Bruny Island Smokehouse, or BISH (which also contains a whiskey bar) and stock up on smoked salmon, Ocean Trout, chicken breast or even quail. We purchased the smoked sardine and chili paste which, stirred through pasta, made a quick dinner one evening. Beware though, this paste is hot and there was much moaning from The Princess over this meal. The real hidden gem on the island though is the (very) small shop next to the ferry terminal. It looks like a little shed, yet we picked up some freshly made pesto, a sliver of Grano Pando cheese and a tub of freshly ground peanut butter from their own machine. Fresh salads were also available for purchase at the counter.
- Sir Loin Breier Gourmet Butcher Deli: Food options, other than the supermarkets, seem limited on the east coast so we were delighted to find this butcher/deli in Bicheno. They stock a range of smoked meats and seafood, and have a few pre-prepared items in the freezer. We dined on the generous meatballs from the freezer section, and Mr Grumpy picked up some smoked trout for his breakfast.
- Ashgrove Cheese: Although primarily a cheese producer, their on-site shop is fully stocked with all your dairy requirements, as well as relishes, smoked meats and dips and pates that can be used to pull together simple lunches or dinners. We stocked up on unhomogenised milk and their delicious butter. Don’t leave without this.
- 41o South: The hot smoked salmon from 41o South is, without a doubt, the best I have ever eaten. This salmon farm is fully sustainable and you can purchases simple lunches before doing a tour of the farm. We stocked up on their salmon, which will keep unrefrigerated for a couple of days if you are traveling. Best of all they do mail order, which I will be taking full advantage of.
- Alps & Amici Foodstores & Kitchen: If you self catering in Launceston then this is the store for you. They stock a range of boil-in-the-bag meals prepared in store and packaged in various sizes for differing appetites. I’m not normally an advocate of such things but these meals are made with real ingredients and I was on holiday. The meals can be found in both the fridge and freezer section, and you can easily pick up any other accompaniments in store at the same time. All of the meals we tried (chicken fajitas, lamb tagine and a pork dish) were very flavoursome.
Successful self catering relies on a reasonable kitchen. It will never be as well stocked as your own so you may have to think laterally when cooking. I have previously had to make porridge in a frypan. We can recommend the following properties should you be planning a trip to Tasmania:
- Theatre Mews, Hobart
- Port Arthur Villas, Port Arthur
- 1/3 Douglas Street, Bicheno
- Highbury Apartments, Launceston
We didn’t get to see any of the west coast this trip, yet The Field Guide promises many foodie destinations in this area. One day we will return to seek them out.