The time has come for the last blog post of 2011. It has been an exceptional year of tremendous eats but for this last post of the year, there's no better subject to share, than what was for me, the most memorable experience in 2011.
You may remember that I was recently invited to attend a media trip to Tassie's East Coast. I haven't been able to stop talking about this experience since my return so for those of you who have already heard my excitement, here are the photos - and for all you others - you won't believe what I got to do!
Saffire Freycinet is a luxury lodge. Not your typical five star hotel, but the type of place that charges $2700/night for a premium suite (there are only four of these). On the lower end, there's six of the deluxe suites which go for $1750/night, and inbetween, the luxury suites which go for $1900/night. There's only a total of 20 accomodation suites available.
The premium suite at Saffire
Don't be fazed by the rates, because to go with these mind-blowing prices, are of course, mind-blowing experiences.
If you're looking for somewhere unique for a celebratory milestone, or if you're trying to surprise someone who has everything, then seriously, bookmark this post.
Everything at Saffire is super premium; the lodge is catered by Hugh Whitehouse (the man who took Darley's at Lilianfels in the Blue Mountains to its 'two hat' status), and included in the price of the accomodation are a broad range of complimentary exclusive activities.
One of them, and quite possibly, the best of them all, is a visit to Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm.
I've been to oyster farms before where the closest you'd get to viewing it in its natural habitat is from the shoreline. Well, this is completely different.
Firstly, we wear waders and get right into the water.
The sensation of being waist deep in water and still staying dry, is bizarre but quite the thrill!
We meet the proprietor, Giles Fisher, who has been running this working oyster farm for the last six years. Saffire only opened in June 2010, so this tour concept, a partnership between Giles and Saffire, is still relatively new. Saffire guests will normally be guided by a trained guide (although Giles says he always makes the effort to stop by and chat) but seeing as I'm with some VIJs (Very Important Journalists), we have the pleasure of being guided by Giles this morning.
His knowledge and passion is such an inspiration.
Some of the interesting things I learn from Giles are:
Baby oysters are called 'oyster spat'
The photo below showcases what they look like. Freycinet Marine Farm buys these from a nursery at Clifton Beach twice a year. The hatchery produces about 100 million oysters each year.
Oysters reproduce in summer
Oysters lose 90% of its body mass during broadcast spawning, which occurs during the peak of summer. It rebuilds its body mass in autumn and spring.
Australia is a net importer of oysters
Australian marine farms can't keep up with domestic demand. An oyster can live for 70 years, growing about an inch a year but because oyster farms aren't meeting the demand, the average size of an oyster is quickly diminishing.
Oyster farmers are paid by the consistency of size
The current going rate is $6.15/dozen for oysters that are 60-85mm, $7.15/dozen for 85-100mm oysters and $9/dozen for oysters that are 100-115mm. It's quick to see that the frequency of harvesting has a direct impact on profitability.
Freycinet Marine Farm operates across six different regions. Using innovative modules which consist of grouped singular oyster cages, their oysters are transported around the various growing regions throughout its life span.
The estuarine areas are in the Greater Swanport river estuary, boarded by the Pelican Bay bird sanctuary on the upstream side and open to Great Oyster bay on the down stream side. It is intertidal, and the oysters spend about 18 months here. They're then 'fattened up' at the marine zones which are off shore from Freycinet National Park and are open to the Southern Ocean to the south. They spend 3 months there where they are exposed to rougher subtidal conditions.
Oysters are filter feeders, so growing them in these pristine environments makes these particular oysters some of the best in the world.
So we're walking around different areas of the estuary, learning about the intricacies of producing world class oysters, when Giles suddenly announces that it's time to try some! He plucks some oysters from various cages, and just when I thought we were heading back to the shed, he points to a wooden table that is in the water, right in the middle of nowhere.
Giles whips out a white tablecloth and some bubbly, glasses and plates from his backpack, and before I know it, I'm standing knee deep in water, having fresh oysters and local sparkling wine, for breakfast!!!
He shucks the fresh-out-of-water oysters right before our eyes, gently washes them in the water around us, and I just can't stop smiling! This is one of those once in a lifetime moments which I'll forever remember.
The oysters are smooth and plump; they're slightly salty from the crystalline waters and are an absolute treat. There's not a wedge of lemon in sight as these natural oysters really don't need anything else.
As we're devouring this oyster buffet, Giles shares his success of carbon positive farming. Let alone having the most magical oyster experience ever, it's not often you meet someone who has such an infectious sense of wellbeing and achievement.
After that magical breakfast of oysters and bubbly, we make a short drive to Saffire for lunch (my life truly does evolve around food!).
Saffire is a grand luxury lodge of extravagant proportions. It's an amazing place to walk into - all the colours, textures and materials seamlessly fit into the landscape. There's lots of granate, sandstone, water features and timber, yet the focus is always on the stunning views.
Everything is inheritly Tassie.
Even the salads alone are outstanding. There's tabouli with a twist (roasted cumin!), a garden salad featuring seasonal greens such as mustard leaf and chickweed, ...
... roasted capsicum with anchovies looking ever so dainty, ...
... a wholesome salad of beetroots, ...
... and a divine warm potato salad with mussels. (I absolutely loved this combination of ingredients - it's so simple, but so completely delicious. A must-do for any upcoming BBQs I'll be hosting this summer!)
Here's my plate, before I realised I should have made room for the meats:
Freshly grilled, there's spatchcock, fillets of boarfish, and Cape Grim steaks with Cafe de Paris butter.
And lastly, for dessert, a pavlova roulade.
Oh, and here is Saffire's rooftop kitchen garden!
Even though I only experienced a small segment of what Saffire had to offer, it was definitely an unforgettable and indulgent few hours!
Now, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fantastic new year! To my nearest and dearest, and all my lovely readers, thanks for coming along with me on the magnificent journey that 2011 has turned out to be. I hope you've been eating well this holiday season, and I can't wait to be in touch with you in 2012!
Freycinet Marine Farm
The tour featured in this blog post is a complimentary activity only offered to Saffire guests. However, they have a tasting room open to the public, where you can buy direct or eat-in.
1784 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, TAS
Phone: (03) 6257 0140
2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, TAS
Phone: (03) 6256 7888 or 1800 SAFFIRE
JENIUS attended the Pure Tasmania media famil as a guest of Federal Group with thanks to Impressions Marketing Communications.