As a part of my honours thesis and for the love of all things worth eating, drinking, and experiencing, this is Savour SA - a friendly place where appreciation for quality South Australian food and drink abounds. Feedback is welcomed - heck, it's even encouraged! Some of it will be bundled up as part of my research. So, let us eat, drink, and be heaps merry.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Burger Theory

Starving stomachs squirm and squelch beneath the suits and skirts, and in a hunger-educed migration, weekday workers leave their office swivel chairs and spreadsheets in search of something to fill their bellies.  The people of Adelaide’s business district click-clack their way towards lunch. In streets near by couples banter as they, with a sense of urgency,  reverse parallel park their roughed up cars. Shoppers scurry and scamper, flinging string-handled bags over their shoulders and tucking handbags under their arms as they maneuver through the pedestrian crossing, ever conscious of the flashing red man, and the drivers staring them down as they flit in front of the pulled up cars. Why the hurry? They’ve each got a date with Pearl.

Nestled in the bosom of Adelaide’s CBD, you’ll find a grungy truck with a sweetheart name. Sitting stocky, solid, and square the truck wears a black get-up, with a smattering of primary-coloured graffiti art tattooed on it like a sleeve on a man you wouldn’t take home to meet your mum. But don’t be deceived by her quirky appearance; Pearl, the Burger Theory truck, is a find – a real gem. Today Pearl is parked in Hindmarsh Square and the burger boys and girls are feeding the Adelaide masses.

We’re at the corner where Pirie meets Pultney. Lucky for us there’s not a huge line up just yet and there’s a few free park benches that will, hopefully, still be free once we’ve placed our order. Across the square, the Nova van has set up a tent of sorts, with bongos, congos, or some sort of make-shift saucepan drum kit. Whatever the percussion instrument, the noise is tribal. It’s feeding time in the square, and with the jungly tom-toms resonating over traffic and the plume of smoke sauntering out the door of the food truck, you could close your eyes, smell the smolder, click your Birkenstocks three times and be at WOMAD.

Order placed, and with beeping device in hand, we settle ourselves on a bench, eagerly waiting the buzz that tells us our burgers are ready. Ahead of us is baby-spinach-green-coloured grass, with suits and skirts scattered on it like human confetti. On this unseasonably warm day, the usual black slacks and white shirt combo is happily broken by the odd floral sundress fanned out on the grass, and ladies with jewel-coloured high-waisted skirts sitting with their legs bent underneath them. Above, the trees have been burnished by the autumn elements to the halfway mark where their leaves are no longer green, but not yet burnt and crunchy. And as the cars and buses whir on past, what a glorious sensation it is to be in the heart of the city yet playing picnic in the parkland.

Having fetched the burgers, we wriggle our butts back into the bench and separate, making space for ‘eating elbows’ and drinks. There is nothing lady-like about downing a burger. It’s an exercise in fumbly fingers and slurping up dribbles. But here, in the park, we’re all in the same messy boat. And there’s no limit to how grubby I’d get for a burger like this – meat that dissolves on your tongue, juicy tomato, and a delightful cloud-like bun. The Burger Theory menu is limited, but the quality is not. There are two burger options on offer, and this makes me swoon. Why? Because I’d rather eat somewhere that serves two items that are dead-set amazing, than have ten mediocre burgers to choose from that, I don’t know, all start with ‘Mc’ and end with a heart attack.

The people just keep coming. For the hour we sit and watch, a constant crew mill around the truck, either waiting to order or waiting for pick-up. A fresh-faced gal, with office wear, wanders past us through the square, clutching a purchased salad showcased in a plastic container. She obviously didn’t get the memo. But having witnessed the happiness in Hindmarsh Square, I bet my burger she’ll be back.

The more Burger Theory move around, the more of Adelaide we all see. And yes, some days the experience is going to be tribal, but other days it’s carnival in the East End, or it’s juggling an armful of textbooks on North Tce, or it’s comfort food in the midst of a miserable day. Maybe it’s grabbing a quick bite in between meetings, or a loved-up picnic in the park with your sweetie, or a gaggle of giggly girls simply relishing the coolness of buying food from a freakin’ truck. Even if you’re eating alone, you’ll never be lonely grabbing a bite from Burger Theory. There are always folk splayed across the grass, the pavement, and any available seating area, and there’s a spirit of joyousness, because biting into that thing, savouring the buttery brioche-y bun and melting meat, you can’t help but be content.

With satisfied stomachs, the suits and skirts return to their swiveling chairs in their square buildings, and the sundresses return to the shops. Others hop in their cars, and turning the steering wheel with sticky fingers, get going to wherever it is they’re going. The Burger Theory truck will pack up only to park elsewhere tomorrow. In that place, somewhere in this sweet city, they’ll prepare and sell their wares. And those wares? Mother of Pearl, they’re heaps good. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Stirling teems with creatures. With artists and writers, and painters and poets. With families that fancy the charm and the trees, and singles and couples that love the beauty and prestige. And there are always guests in Stirling. Wandering around, popping into shops, bathing in dappled sunlight on benches, and sitting on chairs at tables. Reading raggedy novels, pressing buttons at the ATM, fossicking for organic produce, and sitting under trees works up an appetite and so, the creatures must eat.

In this most beautiful of towns, there are many places for eating and drinking. I’ve tried a few, but sometimes my outfit isn’t quite right, my pennies aren’t quite plentiful enough, and my conversation doesn’t appreciate the surrounding noise. So it’s then that I, a hungry creature, scurry toward Tranquilo.

You’d be forgiven if you thought Tranquilo was an Adelaide Hills day spa where ladies with tiny feet and topknots rub your face with mud and tickle your feet with baby chicks. It certainly sounds like it could be. But it’s not. It is, however, just as soothing to the soul. Especially when sunshine and white wine are involved.

I’ve never had a bad meal at Tranquilo. The breakfasts are moreish and generous, and the spread of mains, particulary in winter, is heavy with slow-cooked meat, and saucy pasta. The inside glows with golden walls, like saffron in cream. And the floor, corner bar, and tables are glossy shellacked chocolate brown. And as the sounds of foaming milk shhhoerr and quorr in the background, you’d almost be fooled into thinking you’re somewhere Tuscan. The giant framed photo of the Sturt Dessert Pea snaps you back to an Australian reality soon enough. An indie/pop mix of tunes, like Missy Higgins, and Radiohead appease the old-timers and appeal to the young ones.

Tranquilo isn’t pretentious. The creatures that visit are always a wonderfully odd mix. Sweet still-smitten old couples, like Mr and Mrs Badger, or hipsters with facial hair like Mr Tumnus, enjoy this place as much as each other. And I wonder if they come here for the coffee like me?

You see, I’ve never had a coffee at Tranquilo that wasn’t excellent. I’ve been perched by the fire on an icy winter’s night and it was perfectly woody. I’ve downed a creamy cap with breakfast on a weary weekend morning. I’ve nabbed a takeaway and sat in the park with a pal. And this past Sunday I sipped a soy one in the sun. And each time, I get more joy from that cup than is socially acceptable. And with change from a fiver, that kind of quality is worth every penny.

People live in and visit Stirling because of what it offers – beautiful shops and stores, some really great places to eat, and a whole host of houses and scenery that is so darn appealing to the eye. Creative souls have spun many stories, songs and sculptures in this town. Weary eyed creatures rely on a watering hole – a place, or many a place, where they can visit and be nourished, and perhaps even purchase elixir in a cup. They’re in the right town.

The creatures slink out of their treed-in units, five-bedroom burrows, and midnight blue parked cars, and pad their way around town, following their noses to find something to fill their bellies. In an abundant town like this, the creatures get confused. Too much isn’t good unless what’s on offer is excellent. And all this creature knows is that a cuppa at Tranquilo is true to the bean, and heaps true to your tastebuds. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

RockBare Cellar Door

There are certain things you might think you need when making a day trip to Hahndorf. These can include (but are not limited to): a mini bus full of grandmas/tourists/walkway-hogging families, a blue jean and white sneaker outfit combo, emergency lederhosen, and an insulated pack to put some bratwurst in as a take-home snack. But I’ll have you know, there is more to this delightful town than all of that. So much more.

I have the pleasure of spending my working days in Hahndorf. There are days where I plod up the street and simply can’t believe how tantalisingly cute the surrounds are – trees that have been there much longer than I have, itty bitty historic houses, and so many yummy places to eat and drink. And I’m happy to dodge the tourists when I wander up to get the mail, or to fetch a coffee, or to meet a pal for lunch, because no matter how many buses and camera-wielding bandits line the streets, Hahndorf can’t help but be so darn beautiful. Summer nights see patrons and jazzy tunes spill from cafes onto the street side, autumn turns the tree-lined main street into a palette of earth and amber, winter is a beautifully chill, and spring brings with it, ironically, new life: new visitors and often new menus.

My penny-paying job is at Best Recipes. And at the moment I work from a sweet little Hahndorf office, set back from the main road, which means we miss a lot of the meandering public. The office building is part of the same complex as RockBare Cellar Door. We are two doors down. In my almost 18 months in this office I’ve been into RockBare four times – two of which were in the past week. And this lack of patronage on my part is for no other reason than that I just don’t think of it. I walk past it almost every day – sometimes a number of times – it’s right in front of me and for the longest time, I just didn’t see it for the experience it is. But lately, it’s intrigued me.

RockBare have made their home in the short and stout Thiele Cottage. It’s a poster-boy building for Hahndorf – stone walled, and timber beamed, with low ceilings, and a tall amount of historic charm. Its front verandah stoops low, and through the front door you get a sliver of a peek into the cellar door, like glancing at a flirting eye through a host of coy, low-lying eyelashes. From the side walk, it’s an appealing establishment.

My pal and I have met up for a midweek vino, and magically, we have RockBare to ourselves. RockBare Cellar Door is a collection of many rooms, and today, we’ve chosen to sit in the cellar. Apparently haunted by a ghost called Mary (Poppins, Princess, Proud – I’m not sure which one) the cellar certainly has a eerie feel about it. But not spooky. Just moody.

It smells like men with luscious, glossy, black moustaches and bow ties have been smoking cigars in here. It is, of course, just the scenty remnants from fires past. Even though the wood fire isn’t lit today, it smells as if it could be - that rich, musty, antique, thick winter smell you just want to keep on inhaling. In the cellar we smoosh our work-attired bottoms into pre-loved maroon upholstered armchairs and snuggle in for a tasting.  

On this weekday afternoon, Angus and Julia Stone’s A Book Like This is on repeat, and while I sit there with my pal, the tunes are as lingering as the ghost, and seem to suit the silence. Greedy for privacy and girlish chat, we relish the fact we’re the only two customers in the cellar door. And in this quaint burrow the faint clinking of wine glasses being collected are, together with the Stones, a symphony to the ears just as the wine is a delight to the palate.

The RockBare Experience is worth the money. $5 buys you four tastings, and some cheese, crackers, and olives on the side – and the fiver is redeemable on purchase. The beauty of tastings, as I’ve said before, is that it takes you time to savour each one; for your tastebuds and in-mouth sensory stations to register the flavours of what you’re drinking, whether you’re jumping from fizz, to Sav Blanc, to Pinot Grigio, or making your way through a host of burgundy drops. It’s about quality, about realising why it is or isn’t good. It’s engaging. As with any cellar door, whole glasses, whole bottles, and whole dozens are available as well. You can easily while away an afternoon, sipping on some of the wines on offer.

Truth be told, on that weekday afternoon, we would have happily drunk anything that was presented to us in a glass. And we sat, and laughed, and sighed some pre-Easter weekend sighs, and stared intently at the wood in the fireplace, silently willing it to ignite.  The grout between the bricks on the floor is eroded, and cobwebs lace some of the hard-to-reach doorframes. And the whole vibe makes you ache for the winter.

RockBare is a combination of high ceilings, a modern multicoloured layered bar, as well as antique pokey dining rooms. Like so many wineries, it’s a blend of old and new, but unlike some of the others, the old is just that – it’s old. Historic old. And how I eagerly await a blistering, frosty Hahndorf weekend, when glove-covered-fingers-crossed, the RockBare kitchen offers a curry or a stew, and then with a bowl of comfort, and a glass of red, and perhaps some company, I can enjoy the simple moody pleasure that both Hahndorf and RockBare offer. It’s heaps true that often the best things are right in front of you – or in this case, just two doors down. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Little Van That Could

When one has had a few wines and a 3am bedtime after a joyous Saturday wedding, one can sometimes struggle on a Sunday, can’t one? Yes, one can. And one knows one needs something a little special when not even a fried breakfast with a hash brown on the side, a mug of coffee and a quick sniff of a texta seems to spark up one’s self. One is not living up to one’s full Sunday potential and something must be done.

Who better to understand wasted potential than The Little Van That Could? Don’t be fooled by the name; The Little Van wasn’t always so capable. Once a washed-up circus food server, stranded in a lot full of rusty and crusty abandoned vehicles, The Little Van was more ‘can’t’ than ‘could’. With love, and creativity, and hard work, probably a few little swear words and obviously a lot of cleverness from Monique Bowley, The Little Van That Could was created. 

It’s a sunny Sunday that brings both van and one together. In some April fools’ kind of joke, the sky is a rude shade of blue. An impromptu late afternoon visit to the van finds me one back at the place where this blog began: the VUWP. The yard is still scrappy, and full of misfits (furniture and folks), and as this Sunday is its final day as a pop-up winery, the place is comfortably buzzy. 

Perched in an oversized crate that’s sitting on one of its sides, creating a sunny yellow cave, manfriend and I/one/whatever focus our weary peepers on lady and mans moving the van from one side of the yard to the other, gearing up for the night ahead. And as eyes observe, nose is tickled by the wafts of some tasty animal product being grilled at the neighboring stall, and the inside of mouth has got that dehydrated sticky feeling, like a starfish plucked from the water and swelling on the sand in the heat. And in nod to some sort of cruel, delayed satisfaction, we wait, and wait for the The Little Van That Could.

The Little Van has all the charm of a retro housewife; immaculately groomed, holding carnations, adorned with cute printed patterns, showcasing homemade wares, and doing it all with a smile – because she bloody loves it. Guys want to date her. Dolls want to be her. Proudly donning that most delightful powder/baby/Tiffany blue, she looks as crisp as they come in the yard full of stuff.

Paying our pennies, we sat back in the crate with our legs poking out into the rays, and through that straw I sucked in some of the most perfectly icy, citrus tangy, refreshing, starfish-rehydrating liquid I’ve ever sampled. And in the sun, on that Sunday, it’s just what one needed. And hells bells, it was worth the wait. 

The Little Van specialises in homemade lemonade. There’s ginger beer, and peach, and other fruity beverages too, and they are all delicious. Sometimes there’s tea. And sometimes there are grown-up drinks as well. You see, the charming thing about this Little Van is that you don’t always know where to find her. She could be in a yard, or on a side street, or parked on some grass. I’m sure you will find that The Little Van is becoming an Adelaide icon, much like guy, but perhaps a little more restrained and mysterious. This gal keeps you guessing.

I met The Little Van on Sunday. I don’t know where I’ll find her next. That’s part of the thrill that one (me again) loves so much. In a town that is sometimes full of dirty and cheap eats, The Little Van offers innocent, clean, unadulterated taste. And I’m sure one will find, it’s heaps worth trying.