Seven journo and radio star in ‘terrifying’ ride to ‘nowhere’


I gulped, sent the photo of the tiny plane to my wife and told her, with lump in throat, I loved her.

I then sent the same photo to my colleagues (and questionable friends), and gave them the headline for the dreadful news that was about to break: ‘Beloved sports journalist with heart of gold dies in terrifying plane crash’ … of course, they were quick to respond, ‘Who the hell are you talking about?’.

I walked up the steps, found a seat at the back, crossed my fingers, and buckled up. We were off to a restaurant in the “middle of nowhere” and I’m wondering ‘what the hell am I doing here?’.

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I guess you’re probably thinking, too, ‘why is a sports journalist writing about a food festival in South Australia?’ And it’s a good thought … Did I want to be here?

Hmmm … If I had read the itinerary before saying ‘yes’ things might have been different. And yes, I have a fear of light aircraft and, yes, I have, or had, a life-time vow to never set foot on one. So, when I was staring at that little tin thing with its pathetic wings, the answer in that moment — as my life started to flicker before my eyes — was a strong and definite ‘no’.

But I couldn’t back out.

Here’s a tip, it’s important to read itineraries properly before agreeing to travel. Credit: Cameron Noakes

As a former wine bar owner, I was here to get a sneak peek of the state’s mighty food and drink scene ahead of the Tasting Australia festival (which runs from May 3-12 this year).

And now, a small group of us were flying to Coonawarra to dine at a restaurant — which by my reckoning doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic — called Ottelia.

I was sitting on the plane behind SA radio star Bec Morse, from the Bec and Soda Breakfast show, and I soon discovered she too shared my unnatural (or could you call it natural?) fear of light aircraft.

We were kindred spirits and broke ice over a random chat about Kyle Sandilands’ $200 million contract, and then Bec proceeded to share details of some Sandilands’ live content that involved his nanny, on air, flushing a poo — his poo — down his toilet. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

As Bec told the story, the plane suddenly hit turbulence, and pangs of dark fear sparked uncontrollably through my head.

Bec quickly turned to me and echoed exactly what I was thinking.

“Is the last conversation we’ll ever have gonna be about Kyle Sandilands’ s***?” she asked.

I wanted to respond with something meaningful, find some sudden wisdom before the engine dropped out and we fell from the sky in a terrifying ball of flames … but I had nothing to give her, there were no words, just a feeble chuckle masking the panic deep within.

Of course, there was nothing actually to worry about. The plane powered through. We were soon on solid ground in Coonawarra, and taken to a magical restaurant where I was quickly blown away.

Ottelia was described by the head chef as a restaurant ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Credit: Supplied

From the outside, this place doesn’t look like much. When head chef Paul Stone talked to us, he said it’s “in the middle of nowhere” and — as a naive city boy — I wondered ‘how the hell does it make a buck?’. But it didn’t take that long to work out.

While there’s not much going on outside, there’s suddenly a stack happening at the table.

My nanna, who was a cold, bitter woman and never sung a song in her life, once told me that “carrots were for rabbits” and “seeds were for birds”.

Yet, here I was, at this humble restaurant, tucking into a mouth-watering lamb rack and guzzling the most amazing baby carrots (with pistachio and chard pesto) I’ve ever tasted … sorry, Nan, you were wrong.

The feast was on, it’s spectacular and it’s proudly local — a strong theme that is running throughout the Tasting Australia festival this year, and why not?

In the Australian debate around which state is the boss of food and drink, South Australia may just well have its nose in front of the rest.

The drinks scene in SA is also flying. Credit: Supplied

And that’s not only because of its long list of famous winemakers … adding strength to the above claim is some powerhouse cooks such as Arkhe’s Michelin-starred chef Jake Kellie, and hugely successful distilling companies such as Never Never in McLaren Vale.

Never Never has already been acknowledged on the global stage, winning the World’s Best London Dry at the World Gin Awards in London at the start of 2023, and also the World’s Best Classic Gin in 2019.

Sitting at Never Never in a spectacular setting sipping on a variety of world-class gins is a must for any gin enthusiast, a must for any sports journos, or, indeed, just a must thing to do if you’re ever in SA.

It’s a festival highlight and if you do get there you have to give their premium grenache gin (Ginache) a spin. But word of warning, go easy.

But back to flying on little planes …

This year’s festival offers a stack of events (more than 150), including overnight trips to the Limestone Coast where restaurant’s such as Stone’s Ottelia feature in a spectacular day that takes in a guided tour of the Naracoorte Caves (including drinks and snacks) and a wine tasting at Bellwether Wines.

There’s also a day trip to the the Eyre Peninsula where the adventurous will fly to Port Lincoln from Adelaide and then travel by “amphibious boat” to South Australia’s first luxury eco resort on Louth Island (you can book on the Tasting Australia Airlines).

South Australia, with its brilliant local produce, has serious claims on being the best food state in Australia. Credit: Supplied

Of course, for those who prefer their transport grounded, this year for the first time there is the ‘Tasting Australia by Train’, where those lucky enough to have snapped up a ticket (it’s sold out) will snake their way from Melbourne to Adelaide while indulging in a sensory overload of the palate.

On this 10-hour train ride passengers will be treated to mind-blowing food from South Australian cooking genius Cheong Liew, Freyja head chef Jae Bang (who has taken Melbourne by storm) and Indian-British chef Asma Khan of London’s Darjeeling Express.

Other Tasting Australia events will include the festival hub Town Square, the Bowerbird design market (where more than 30 local producers will offer everything from gin, wine and beer to chocolates), a ‘low and slow BBQ experience, a curated gelati tasting plus a heaps more.

Check out the full Tasting Australia program here.

This very nervous writer travelled as a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission and arrived everywhere in one piece.



This article was originally published by a 7news.com.au . Read the Original article here. .