Sometimes it takes a random offer to help you discover that the best things in life are often right at your doorstep. I know I frequently swoon over the gourmet delights found in Sydney and Melbourne, or reminisce fondly about favourite overseas food spots, but it was actually in our very own Swan Valley that I most recently felt like a gushy tourist, busily ‘speed grazing’ via the comfort of Taste Bud Tours‘ air-conditioned bus.
Of course, I’m no complete newbie to the Swan Valley. My hubby and I enjoy a glass of wine with tapas occasionally at The Tap (attached to Chapel Farm), and a romantic overnighter at The Vines last year led us to dine at Stewart’s at Brookleigh and the totally amazing Taylor’s Art & Coffee House. Still, you do need to make a concerted effort and allocate a good chunk of time to discover all the cool things that have popped up in the Swan Valley. Hence, playing tourist was a fantastic foodie experience.
So how did I end up on a tour? I happened upon Taste Bud Tours through an opportunity I was given last year to try out Groupon, a group buying website. I wasn’t a big user of group buying websites then but I’m now glad I tried out Groupon just to have found about the tour. Taste Bud Tours is described as a ‘one woman show’ by organiser Loris Gundry, and it’s going into its third year of operation. Loris offers either a morning tour (for the sweet tooth) or an afternoon tour (more savoury), but both are focussed on the idea of speed grazing which means people get the chance to try a little bit of everything at each stop, before moving on.
I invited my dear friend and fellow blogger (The Trekking Banana, or TB) along on the tour. Aside from us, only about four other people were Perth locals with everyone else being either interstate or overseas tourists. Each tour takes a maximum of sixteen people and Loris is quite adept at keeping everyone on course without feeling rushed or handled. I should also add that Loris has the patience of a saint given the number of times I had to book and rebook. Nothing was too much trouble for Loris.
After a leisurely cruise from the Swan Valley Tourist Centre in Guilford during which Loris shared some interesting tidbits about the area, we arrived at our first stop: Yahava Koffee Works (a sage decision given we were all a little bleary and needed a caffeine kick). Yahava was the supplier to One For the Road, my favourite drive-thru cafe before the takeover by Zarraffa’s Coffee. I was pretty stoked to finally visit Yahava’s home base and savour some of their lovely brews again. Even TB, who is not a coffee drinker at all, found the bean roasting demonstration interesting.
While not an exciting new discovery for me, our next stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Company was most welcomed given I needed a little sugar hit to supplement my rushed, smoothie breakfast that morning. It was also Valentine’s Day so I conveniently picked up a small box of chocolates for my beloved family. Following on was our visit to Cape Lavender and Mago Coffee, neither of which I knew existed. I gleefully stocked up on some hard-to-find Italian hot chocolate sachets after scoffing a lavender scone with matching tea.
Moving right along, our tour visited the Maalinup Gallery. This gallery not only showcases some lovely local indigenous art but also stocked bush tucker ingredients, along with a selection of sauces and chutney made with bush ingredients. Dale from the gallery passed around a bowl of bush tomatoes which I can safely say will not appear in my blog (I’m fairly sure…). Pungent! Thankfully the other samples were much more palatable!
The tour also included a quick ice cream stop at Oggies Ice Cream Cafe, an informative visit to Windarra Honey, and a spot of wine tasting and cheese nibbling at the picturesque vineyard of Windy Creek Estate. There, I fell in love with the Wicked Stepmother’s range of jams and chutneys, all made by the winemaker’s wife. Some of the jams used the fortified wines produced by Windy Creek Estate which I thought was a wonderful touch. I took home a jar of eggplant and capsicum relish but promised to revisit the jams (and wines) another time.
Our final stop was absolutely joyous for me: Mondo Nougat. I knew this maker of luscious nougat had a store in the Swan Valley but what I did not know was that Mondo started out as a patisserie in 1989 and only introduced nougat making later on. As such, walking into Mondo Nougat’s base was an utter revelation. The counter was bedecked with so many different types of Italian and Continental pastries and cakes. I pretty much walked past the nougat in order to reach patisserie nirvana. I saw stuff that I didn’t think even existed in Perth including my beloved Rum Baba (made with locally distilled Canefire Rum, no less!). Needless to say, I carted quite a few delicious things away from this last stop!
Overall, I am so happy that I went on Taste Bud Tours. Being a fairly time poor food blogger, going on a tour like this helped me discover some great things in one big hit. I’m looking forward to booking an afternoon tour some time soon and I’m fairly sure the Trekking Banana won’t need her arm twisted to come along again.