THE CENTENNIAL PARK SAUSAGE VS. SAUSAGE DOG PICNIC

I’m going to put it out there.

I am a dog lover.

Sorry cat lovers. I do tolerate cats but ever since I tried to introduce one to my dog when I was 7 (yes, not the smartest idea), I haven’t felt completely comfortable around any animal with the propensity and desire to claw at my face. I make exceptions for my dear furry cat-friends, Roger, Ziggy, and Sarah Socks, but otherwise, cats and I unfortunately got off on the wrong foot.

Dogs however steal my heart, hands down. I am one of those people who will pat dogs I see waiting for their owners outside cafés. I love nothing more than cuddling up on the couch with Gina (our family dog). I have googled, “How to become a dog walker”.

I would own a dog but for the fact that I don’t live in a pet-friendly apartment. Boo!

So when my lovely friend Shani mentioned to me that she was going to an event in Centennial Park called “Dachshunds in the Park” with her boyfriend Kieren and their gorgeous dogs, Coco and Taco, I invited myself and Mark along and we came up with the genius idea of a “Sausage vs. Sausage Dog Picnic“*.

*No sausage dogs were harmed in the making of this picnic.

Here’s what we did:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Victor Churchill, Woollahra

Event:    “Dachshunds in the Park”, Centennial Park

Picnic:   A quaint spot near Musgrave Avenue, Centennial Park

Coffee:   Centennial Park Kiosk, Centennial Park

Let’s go!

FOOD:

VICTOR CHURCHILL

 132 Queen Street, Woollahra

If you’re after swanky sausages (yes, there is such a thing), Victor Churchill is your place.

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Victor Churchill has maintained its location as a butchery in the leafy suburb of Woollahra in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs since 1876 (!). It is now in the hands of father and son team, Vic and Anthony Puharich, the duo behind Vic’s Premium Quality Meat. Shall we go inside?

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The door handle is modelled on a link of sausages and I was pleased to see this theme continued to the draw handles at the work bench where they wrap up your produce.

As you will see, the store is a work of art. Literally. It won the 2010 International Interior Design Award for retail stores and the window display when we visited had been commissioned by an artist and featured beautiful and intricate copper and brass autumn leaves which framed a huge cut of meat.

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It is unfitting to describe Victor Churchill as a “butchery” in the traditional sense as it is the antithesis of your ordinary butcher shop with plastic door curtain, abrupt fluorescent lighting and astro turf grass display. Rather, Victor Churchill is a high-end meat boutique. It’s what you get if you crossed a butchery with a Louis Vuitton store (as it is oft described).

There is a glass-walled meat ageing room where specialty cuts of meat slowly travel along a cog gear and metal chain rack, infusing with the flavour of the Himalayan rock salt brick wall. You can also watch expert butchers deftly preparing meat behind floor-to-ceiling glass, as if it were theatre.

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You can find all cuts and types of meat, house-made charcuterie, rotisserie chicken, and also salts, oils, French butter, duck fat, terrines…

My Djedo (grandfather) used to have his own smoke house and make this. I wish I loved prosciutto back then as much as I do now 😦

…and freshly baked bread and pastries

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For our picnic, we ordered a selection of the house made sausages:  Lamb Merguez, Pork Apple & Cider and Pork Italian.

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They were carefully wrapped up and packaged in a beautiful bag, equivalent to a designer shopping bag, and a fitting end to the Victor Churchill experience.

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Note that if you stop into Victor Churchill between Monday and Saturday, you can purchase freshly cooked gourmet sausage rolls and hot dogs, so save yourself the cooking time and simply pick one up on your way to Centennial Park!

Check out the Victor Churchill website for more details. 

 

EVENT:


“DACHSHUNDS IN THE PARK”, CENTENNIAL PARK

Federation Valley, near Loch Avenue, Centennial Park

From Victor Churchill, it is an easy drive or walk over to the beautiful Centennial Park, for our next stop, the “Dachshunds in the Park” event.

Firstly, a bit about Centennial Park as it has quite an interesting history. It opened on the first centenary, 26 January 1888, and at the opening, Sir Henry Parkes gave a rousing speech and said:

“It is emphatically the people’s park and you must always take as much interest in it as if by your own hands you had planted the flowers; and if you take this interest in it, and if you thus rise to the full appreciation of its great beauty, and your great privileges, the park will be one of the grandest adornments of this beautiful country”.

Truer words have not been spoken and you will fully appreciate the great beauty of Centennial Park when you come across views like this one:

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Here’s a bit of trivia: Did you know Centennial Park was also where they proclaimed the Federal Constitution of Australia on 1 January 1901?  Apparently, 250,000 people (I’m guessing all of Sydney at the time) gathered in Centennial Park to celebrate the joining of six formerly independent colonies as one Commonwealth of Australia. The highlight of the festivities was a ceremony which took place in what is now known as Federation Valley, which has rising slopes that afforded the crowd and members of the press good views.

Federation Valley is now an off-leash dog area and the meeting point for the “Dachshunds in the Park” event, created by a dedicated group of dachshund lovers who meet around 10:30am on the last Sunday of every month.

I once read in awe about the popularity of “cat cafes” in Tokyo, where people who do not have the space for a pet can pay to spend time patting cats. For me, the “Dachshunds in the Park” event was kind of like that, but less creepy as it was consensual and all doggy cuddles were given to me out of free will. All I needed to do was sit on the grass and wait for gorgeous little dachshunds to jump in my lap, like this one:

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Here are some friends I made:

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We nicknamed the dapper dachshund in the bow-tie, “Lord Nelson”, but we’re sure he might have a cooler name. Please let us know what it is!

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I believe this pretty girl was named “Bettina”

It was funny to watch the confidence of the dachshunds en masse. They definitely have a pack mentality and worked together to drive away other breeds that dared to gatecrash their party. This little guy was brave enough to sneak through – look how happy we are!

If you have a dachshund, sign up to the “Dachshunds in the Park” group on Facebook to stay up to date on events. Below is a map of the Federation Valley off-leash area which you may want to visit at other times if you’re ever in need of a quick dog cuddle – just try to act normal, and if anyone asks, pretend one of the dogs is yours:

 

PICNIC:

CENTENNIAL PARK

Near Musgrave Avenue BBQ area, Centennial Park

We found a really quaint picnic spot just off Musgrave Avenue and in close proximity to the BBQ area and bathrooms. It was also in walking distance of Federation Valley.

Time to meet our friends, Coco and Taco:

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Coco (pink collar) and Taco (blue collar) are best buddies and as you can see, they are super, super cute. They both have their own distinct personalities. Coco can be described as a princess with a diva attitude. She is a bit aloof around strangers and standoffish to the other dogs, but deep down behind that ‘mean girl’ exterior is a very sweet girl just looking for some attention.

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Taco, on the other hand, is a friendly, laid back and chilled dude (surprisingly, a bit like his owner, Kieren). He’s the counterbalance to Coco and the two are inseparable. Even with all the other dachshunds around at the “Dachshunds in the Park” event, they didn’t want to leave each other out and stuck together, like all BFFs do.

We set up our picnic rug and Mark got to cooking up the sausages on the BBQ nearby. I sliced up our baguette and we filled these with our sausages and “Sataraš”, the Croatian equivalent of tomato relish, made with tomato, onion and capsicum (get the recipe here).

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Our Victor Churchill sausages were juicy and flavourful. Combined with the Sataraš and our crispy baguette, it made for a delicious and satisfying lunch.

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Thanks to Shani, Kieren, Coco and Taco for joining The Picnic Press. We had so much fun!

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Facilities

→  Parking: There is plenty of parking within Centennial Park and its free.

→  BBQs: There are free BBQ sites in Centennial Park which operate on a first-in basis. BBQs are located in picnic areas near Model Yacht Road, Musgrave Avenue (where we went), Ash Paddock, Learner’s Cycleway, Paperbark Grove and adjacent to the playground near Paddington Gates. Don’t forget to be considerate and clean the hotplate after use. You can also bring your own portable BBQs with legs (provided there are no total fire bans in operation). You cannot use BBQs that sit on the grass and it goes without saying that you must not dump hot coals or any other rubbish.

→  Toilets: The public toilets are actually, well, nice. In fact, a respected UK design firm voted them one of the top 10 amenities in the world. Yeah, tweet that.

→  Reserved picnic spots: You can reserve picnic sites for large groups on payment of a fee – see the Picnics bookings page for more details. Note, you cannot reserve BBQ areas.

→  Playground: There are a couple of playgrounds for kids at Paddington Gates and near the Centennial Park Kiosk, our next stop.

→  Bicycle hire: Centennial Park is very popular with cyclists who like to tear through the inner loop. There is a good area for kids called Learners Cycleway with an off-road bike track, so that they are not exposed to cars or other cyclists. You can hire bicycles from Centennial Park Cycles, 7 days. There’s also some pedal cars for a fun experience.

→  Horse riding: You can ride horses in Centennial Park and there are pony rides available for kids on the weekends.

→  Dog-grooming: Get this, Centennial Park has its own dog grooming service, available 7 days. See details here. Handy!

→  Alcohol: Alcohol is permitted within most of Centennial Park, but there may be declared alcohol-free zones, so take note of any signs near your picnic spot.

Check out the Centennial Parklands website for more details about Centennial Park, including upcoming events and activities!

 

COFFEE:

CENTENNIAL PARK KIOSK

Corner Grand Drive and Parkes Drive, Centennial Park

The Centennial Park Kiosk is in the middle of Centennial Park and a great spot to grab a coffee or tea to recharge.

The Kiosk serves light meals and takeaway treats, including brownies (that I barely resisted) and some healthier snacks as well, such as muesli bars, fruit, and popcorn.

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If you want to take a seat at the Kiosk, it’s in a pretty, shaded spot (just behind me, below). Keeping with the picnic theme, we took our coffee and enjoyed it on our blanket on the grass in the sun. Ah, bliss!

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BONUS:

CHECKLIST

Here is a bonus this week – our list of packing essentials! As this picnic involved some cooking, we needed to prepare ahead and pack a little extra this time. The below list may be handy as a checklist for your next BBQ picnic!

The Picnic Press essentials:

♦   Picnic blanket

♦   Plates

♦   Napkins / paper towel

♦   Drinks (with optional lemon and mint garnish)

♦   BBQ scraper

   BBQ tongs

♦   Cooking oil

♦   Salt (to clean the BBQ)

♦   Hand sanitiser (a good idea around dogs, and great for cleaning sticky hands)

♦   Lunchbox / container with lid to easily transport cooked sausages and keep warm

♦   Home made Sataraš (click here for the recipe!)

AND if you’re planning to visit Centennial Park, make sure you bring your best friend!

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 Coming to The Picnic Press: Next week, we reveal where to find delicious food and a gorgeous spot to visit in South West Sydney!

Your Suggestions: We’re on the hunt for a great picnic spot in South Sydney (e.g. Cronulla, Sans Souci, Brighton Le Sands, Dolls Point, etc…). Where is your favourite place for good takeaway, coffee and a picnic in South Sydney?

See you next week!

L&M

P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

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Sataraš

Mark and I both come from a Croatian background although I am a bit of a mix as my Dad also has Italian heritage. Growing up, my family mainly spoke English at home so apart from rote learning prayers to say when we went to Croatian church or for when the priest came to bless our house (an annual Croatian tradition), my Croatian is not fluent or to be trusted.

I can understand Croatian when I hear it and I could follow what my Baka (grandmother) was saying as she used enough English words amongst her Croatian to help me along. I will get the general gist of about 70% of a conversation that takes place around me while I nod, smile and pretend I know exactly what’s going on. But, when I go to speak Croatian, some kind of terrible wire crosses in my brain and I always, always mix up words. Badly.

Here are some recent examples of what I have said and, in brackets, what I thought I was saying:

  • To my Dad: “Look Dad, I’m wearing my pancakes” (“Look Dad, I’m wearing my cute Croatian knitted slippers”)
  • To my work colleagues: “Try this cake in bear, it’s delicious” (“Try this honey cake, it’s delicious”)
  • To Mark: “I love a**hole jam” (“I love rose hip jam”)

And, for some reason I have especially good pronunciation of the swear words and so this is usually what comes out by mistake. Sorry Mum.

But despite my spoken Croatian being very entertaining, I have always enjoyed the cultural traditions and in particular, the food. You don’t need Google Translate for food.

Croatian food is delicious and heartwarming and Croatians (especially Bakas) love feeding people. As a child, my beautiful Baka would greet me with a big hug and then immediately say, “Sjedi i jedi, Lien”, which means, “Sit and eat, Leanne”.

So to kick off The Picnic Press recipe series, I thought it would be fun to start with a Croatian recipe as a nod to our heritage and for something a little different.

I chose to make Sataraš (pronounced sa-ta-rush) for our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog Picnic.

Sataraš is the Croatian version of tomato relish and used as a complement to meat dishes.

I’m not going to claim that my version of Sataraš is authentically ‘Croatian’ as I have added in a couple of additional elements. But, it was tested on Mark’s mum (who is a fabulous cook) and given the seal of approval, so I’m less reluctant to share it.

Traditionally, Sataraš is made with majority red capsicum, tomato and onion. I had some eggplant and green capsicum to use up and thought, why not?

Ingredients:

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♦   6 x onions (4 brown, 2 red), cut into wedges

♦   2 x red capsicum, slivered

♦   1 x green capsicum, slivered (optional)

♦   7 x tomatoes, diced

♦   1 x eggplant, cut into batons (optional)

♦   2 – 3 tbl vegetable oil for frying (unfortunately I had run out so all I had was extra virgin olive oil. I took the punt, but recommend pure olive oil / vegetable oil as it is better for cooking with)

♦   1 tsp Vegeta

 Method:

1) Chop the onions into wedges first and then after you’ve dried your eyes, heat a heavy based pot to medium-high heat and sauté the onion in oil, until it gets soft. I’d estimate around 5 minutes (or however long it will take you to chop up 3 capsicum into 1cm slivers- do the capsicum while you wait).

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2) Add in your capsicum. Leave to cook and meld with the sweet onion flavours while you chop up your eggplant.

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3) Add in your eggplant and then let it cook uncovered while you chop up your tomatoes. By now, its starting to smell really good.

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4) Dice your tomatoes and be thankful you wore a red top as a tomato explodes on you. Once diced, add to the pot.

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5) Here is where you can start cleaning the kitchen and then make a cup of tea. It’s going to cook for a while. Keep stirring occasionally. It needs to cook uncovered and with a slight simmer so that the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates and the mix starts to thicken.

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SHHH: Now, I’m going to reveal the Croatian cook’s secret weapon… Vegeta.

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Vegeta (pronouced Ve-get-a, and not Vag-eet-a) is a vegetable stock that my Mum (and I’m pretty sure, all other Croatian mums and bakas) put into everything. Even Asian dishes. Yep, in our household, stir fry is Cro-Asian (Like what I did there?). It adds a secret flavour kick.

6) Add some Vegeta to your Sataraš. Warning: Do not add Vegeta and salt. It’s one or the other as Vegeta is salty. I went with a teaspoon and then let it sit for a while before tasting and agreeing this was all that was needed. Taste as you go along and add a little bit at a time if needed. The mix will get saltier as the juices evaporate so I find it’s best to do this closer to the end of cooking.

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7) Leave your Sataraš to cook until it thickens and resembles a relish. For us this took around 30 minutes on medium heat. What you are after is a mix that wont drip from a spoon. The flavours will have melded with a delicious sweetness from the onion, capsicum and tomato.

8) When you are done and the mix has cooled, you can spoon into a sterilised glass jar to take to your picnic!

Sataras

We used Sataraš as a complement to our Centennial Park Sausage vs. Sausage Dog picnic – it was delicious inside a crusty baguette with freshly cooked gourmet sausages from Victor Churchill.

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“Dobar Tek”

(Croatian for “Bon Appetit”)

L&M