Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tamsin's Table

Last weekend we drove to a picturesque farm in the heart of Gippsland and were treated to the most amazing experience. A seat at Tamsin's Table has to be experienced to be believed.

I've long been a fan of driving through the scenic hills of Gippsland, there is just something so pretty about the way that they seem to roll endlessly off into the distance, the lush green of the grass, the fertile red soil recently tilled and planted, and the abundent livestock grazing in the paddocks. It all looks so idyllic, exactly how country life should look. I've often wondered about the farmsteads perched right at the top of those hills, about who lives in them, what they do all day long, and what they grow on their particular farm.

After an hour-and-a-half or so, drive from Melbourne we were finally driving down the right little winding road, where we found the pretty country driveway that was described perfectly in our directions, it wends around the side of the hill to Tamsin's house, and when we reached its end, we were greeted by the prettiest little farm… cows and sheep grazing on the other side of a wire fence, chickens clucking in the barn, and at the weathered timber gate, we were graciously greeted by our friendly host, Tamsin Carvan.

Tamsins Table 02

We were welcomed into the beautiful surrounds of Tamsin's home, where our senses were filled with the warmth of beautiful timber furniture and floorboards, a kitchen bustling with the preparation of delights soon to come, and a calm warmth exuding from our host, as she offered us home made peach leaf wine, diluted into a refreshingly cool beverage with sparkling spring water and ice. However, I couldn't help but be distracted by the beauty of her home, it was a feast for my eyes with sweet vignettes peppered around the room, dainty china laid out ready for the afternoons gathering, and pretty little details, like tiny birds nests and little glass domes containing treasures.

Once my eyes had feasted on the pretty, I couldn't help but notice the abundant garden produce as I headed back out toward our table in the garden. Baskets of freshly harvested unripe plums from a recently broken bough, and a stunning wooden rack laden with the seasons garlic harvest… and then the view from the windows hit me, the fact that it took so long is a testament to just how arresting the inside of Tamsin's home is, because the view from each window is breathtaking, especially the bathroom windows.

Tamsins Table 03

The claw foot bath is situated below that window, just imagine having the privilege of being able to soak in that bath with this as your view! Even the toilet room was a delight on my senses, with handcrafted wooden fixtures, made by Tamsin's partner Al, and thoughtful decorations including a display of carrot flowers from the garden in a vase, and a selection of succulents, even the hand towels in a vintage bottle carrier, were the most luxurious touch. It seems that no details is overlooked when it comes to Tamsin's home.

What we had come for though was a lunch of seasonal produce prepared by Tamsin from her garden, a gathering of strangers all participating in the connecting act of sharing a meal. Each with their own story, their own contribution to the experience, and their own appreciation of the beautiful meal provided.

While we sat and made our acquaintances, we enjoyed sipping on our refreshing peach leaf wine, and again drank in the thoughtful and beautiful details of the table and the setting… we were under the wide reaching boughs of an established old tree, enjoying light breezes, and dappled sunlight. Over my right shoulder were those endless rolling hills, over my left the rambling abundance of a late summer garden, and in front of me a board laden with fresh cut bread, garden pickles and cheese, my place exquisitely decorated with my personal menu, a hand drawn card, and a beautifully wrapped linen napkin. In the middle of the table, more fresh produce, and a little wooden box filled with pretty little notebooks, just in case we wanted to take some notes about the food or details touched upon in our widely encompassing conversations.

Tamsins Table 05

Before long, Tamsin appeared laden with a platter full of gorgeousness, that turned out to be borage ravioli with new season garlic. The borage flowers on the top were not only pretty, but also edible. The ravioli itself created and cooked to perfection, and the contents of each ravioli parcel a treat for my tastebuds, on top was the crispy slices of home grow garlic, and each mouthful popped with the crunch of pistachio. Our lovely host took her place at the table, and was open with discussing the ingredients of the ravioli, and imparting her knowledge of those that were grown on the farm.

After enjoying our first course, we were treated to a glass of local white wine, pinot grigio I believe, and invited to enjoy our surrounds, and feel free to enjoy a stroll - however, the conversation was flowing and we found ourselves languishing until our host wowed us with her next offering.

Tamsins Table 01

A hand crafted pork pie, from one of her cherished pigs who sadly had been slaughtered some time prior, accompanied by a nerve wracking unveiling, as it was anyones guess if the pie had been a success. Luckily for us, it was a celebration of flavours, and a life well lived… we enjoyed our cold pork pie with home preserved, unripe plum chutney {which in hindsight, I wish I'd offered to purchase from Tamsin's stash, along with a bottle of that delicious peach leaf wine}, roasted carrots, and green salad.

The carrots came with tips on how to grow a large, long, straight specimen, something that I'd love to do one day, and the salad was a party of flavours, self seeded aragula and a variety of home grown herbs. The cold pork pie was complex and flavoursome, and the chutney was just out of this world good.

After we'd savoured our main course, I was dubious on how I was going to fit in any more food. My menu soon informed me that it would be a light and palatable white peach sorbet with prosocco, but even that didn't prepare me for what emerged from the kitchen some time later.

Tamsins Table 04

As Tamsin worked the sorbet into submission and served up each portion, she spoke of the peaches that were used to create such a work of art, the juices dripping down her arm, the tree that bore the fruit, the inclusion of the skins to impart both the colour and the texture. Each bowl was completed with a glug of prosecco and quickly passed along to its recipient. There was no waiting on ceremony for our first bite, it was carpe diem, and BOOM!! … the taste of every hot summer that I've ever experienced became an overwhelming sensation upon my unprepared taste buds. If i'd know that was going to happen I would have closed my eyes, that first mouthful was transcendental.

All of a sudden I was swept away, I understood in an instant why any person would do this, grow lush fruit trees with the long view, invest all of that time and energy into establishing them and coaxing them into bumper crops, fighting the birds for the lions share… to be able to enjoy this flavour in the waning summer, into the lengthening Autumn, in the depths of a long cold Winter. Oh my, now I got it, big time. Now I want a peach tree, not only for the sorbet though, I think I'd like to learn to make that peach leaf wine that we started our long meal with.

All too soon dessert was gone, all but a pleasant memory in my mouth, and I realised just how sated I was feeling. It was the perfect time to take a leisurely stroll about the farm gardens and really see just how much work goes into a home grown meal such as we'd just relished.

Tamsins Table 06

The garden, although obviously in the late stages of Summer, was both delightful and interesting. Tamsin spoke of the trials and tribulations, and we all admired the established fruit and nut trees, picked up tips about the thornless raspberries, and many vegetables now gone to seed.

The pigs were a revelation, especially after my more recent experiences with those at the local children's farm, they were friendly and affectionate, and obviously much, much more than a source of meat. We were treated to a peek into the 'chook retirement village', the lovely shelter where they live now that they no longer lay, and again we were wowed by just how much work it has taken Tamsin to create this little piece of paradise that she can now proudly share with the likes of us.

Once we'd dallied in the garden, we made our way back to our beautiful table under the tree, where we finished our very long lunch with a cup of tea and an equally delicious Meyer lemon cake, before reluctantly saying our goodbyes and making the picturesque treck home… all the while promising each other that we would be sure to repeat the experience again, maybe next time in Winter in the warmth and comfort of Tamsin's home.

tamsin's table

For more information check out Tamsin's beautiful website Tamsin's Table dot com dot au. You can also follow her on Facebook and admire her images on instagram. Can't wait to see what this lovely lady does next, I'm sure it will be equally as impressive.

Thank you Tamsin for creating this amazing gathering, and thank you Al for wowing me with your stunning talents with not only wood work, but also with your kitchen prowess. To my fellow guests, I loved hearing all of your stories, your experiences, and sharing this beautiful meal with you. Maybe someday our paths will cross again.