THE CARRAMAR PORK BELLY & GELATO PICNIC

If you read the title with an eyebrow raised, I’m sure you have gathered that this picnic is not one for the faint hearted.

There’s no denying it: This is pure, unashamed indulgence.

So do some exercise, prepare a salad, pack your picnic blanket and meet us in Carramar.

Carramar is quiet little suburb nestled between Fairfield, Cabramatta, Villawood and Lansdowne in Sydney’s South West. It’s name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning “shade of trees”. How picnic appropriate, right?

Apart from being home to one of the last Sizzler restaurants in Sydney, Carramar is our number one location for getting the best takeaway pork belly. Yes that’s right – if you want deliciously tender, lovingly roasted pork belly topped with ‘too good to be true’ crispy crackling, then this is your place.

Our day was threatening rain but ever determined, we bundled up my cousin, Anita, her husband, David, and their gorgeous girl, miss Sophia (Pia) and when the sky cleared, we made our way to nearby Lake Gillawarna to enjoy a picnic.

So, what of the ice-cream? Well, I had heard about a great gelateria which had won a heap of awards and was conveniently also in Carramar so despite the cold weather and beanie attire, it made perfect sense to head there for a post-picnic dessert.

Here’s our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery, Carramar

Picnic:   Lake Gillawarna, Georges Hall

Gelato:   Art of Gelato Michelangelo, Carramar

FOOD:


PRONTO SMALLGOODS & BUTCHERY

7 Quest Avenue, Carramar 

Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery is one of those unsuspecting places in an unsuspecting suburban street in Carramar, that just so happens to make the best takeaway roasted pork belly in Sydney. Pinkie promise.

Whenever we have a family party or occasion, my mum will order a tray of pork belly from Pronto and it’s always a hit. So if you’re planning a feast, this is one thing you should put on the menu.

To me, “the best pork belly” must meet three key tests:

1) it must have crispy pork skin – ideally, so crackly that you can hear it!

2) the meat must be tender and juicy and not too fatty or dry; and

3) it must have the perfect salt balance – not too little, not too much.

Although these sound like fairly simple requirements, it’s not often that you score the trifecta.

That’s unless you go to Pronto. They are the masters of roast pork belly.

When you walk in to Pronto, you immediately catch the comforting scent of the traditionally smoked and hanging smallgoods – a smell which takes me back to my Djedo’s (grandfather’s) old backyard smokehouse. It’s no-frills and homely.

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There’s a good range of continental groceries…

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Tip: pick up some Ajvar to go with your pork – it is a delicious Balkan relish made from roasted capsicum and garlic.

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… and then your eye travels to the succulent rows of expertly roasted pork belly.

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The pork belly is roasted whole and then taken out the back where it is neatly sliced up for you to take with you. As a guide, I was told one kilo will generously feed about 4 people. We’re all pretty good eaters, but we had some to spare which was great the next day heated in the oven until crisp and served for lunch.

Here is how it looks on our picnic:

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And, more importantly, how did it taste?

Like satisfaction.

Warning: The pork belly at Pronto will normally sell out on weekends so get there early. It’s also best to order in advance if you have a party or occasion. For more details, see the Pronto website here. Thanks to Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery for suppling us with pork belly for our picnic. 

PICNIC:

LAKE GILLAWARNA

Off Henry Lawson Drive, Georges Hall

Lake Gillawarna is part of the Mirambeena Regional Park within the suburb of Georges Hall and a stones throw from Carramar. As the name suggests, there is a lake in the centre, which you can follow around the surrounding walking tracks.

There’s plenty of ducks and even some swans, so it’s a hit with the little ones.

Here is my darling miss Sophia saying hello to the wildlife while we set up:

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And, look how excited she is to join our picnic!

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We set up our picnic with our packed salads and tucked into our still-warm and delicious pork belly.

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Picnic Tip – Mason jars are incredibly practical for a picnic salad. You don’t need to bring all the salad serving-ware and the jars  screw tight when you’re done so that all the leftovers and dressing are neatly contained for you to clean up later. Add your dressing just before serving, close the lid and shake and you’re good to go. If you really don’t want to deal with messy plates, just eat from the jar and have napkins on standby for your pork belly. Too simple!

The flavours of our Asian-inspired Crunchy Cabbage Salad went especially well with the pork as did the apple sauce we so cleverly thought to pack prior. Click here for our salad recipe.

So even though it was a bit chilly and the sky a bit grey, it actually went perfectly with our warm and hearty meal and made it that much more satisfying.

There are some other advantages to a winter picnic too:

1) Daddy Daughter beanies are super cute:

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2) Tickle torture is completely necessary to stay warm:

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3) As is flying a tiny human plane:

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4) And best of all, huddling and cuddling becomes completely mandatory:

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Plus, you’ll burn more energy keeping warm which means pork belly and ice-cream are totally justified!

So don’t let winter keep you away from your picnic or cooped up indoors. Australia has such a temperate climate so unless its snowing, raining or there are gale force winds, you can still get out there and enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty of the great outdoors.

Facilities

→  BBQ facilities: √

→  Shelter: √

→  Toilets

→  Dogs:  – dogs were spotted on a lead

→  Parking:  – parking is easy and there are allocated spots at the entrance.

→  Walking:  – there is a great walking track around the lake.

GELATO:

ART OF GELATO MICHELANGELO

30 The Horsely Drive, Carramar

Anita and I were lucky enough to share a Djedo (grandfather) with a huge fondness for ice-cream. This meant our grandparents always had one of those chocolate-strawberry-vanilla Neopolitan ice-creams in their freezer for Djedo’s cravings. Not terribly sophisticated, but we loved it all the same.

Ice-cream / gelato has come a long way since we were kids and there are now so many amazing gelaterias out there selling delicious gourmet flavours.

I wish Djedo was still around so that we could take him to Art of Gelato Michelangelo. He would have loved it.

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At Art of Gelato Michelangelo you will find traditionally made gelato, gelato cakes, Italian sweets and Lavazza coffee.

The owner, Martino Piccolo has been in the game for over 25 years and recently beat the Europeans at their own game at the Gelato World Cup in Italy, where he won one of the top honours based on a “mystery box” challenge. The winning creation is now sold in store and is made from Loacker biscuits, which are a crunchy Italian chocolate hazelnut treat.

All flavours at Art of Gelato Michelangelo are created from scratch in-house and there is a full wall adorned with awards that have been won.

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Here you will find some creative and unusual artisan blends including a new “flavour of the week”, every week, where they get inventive. When we visited, the flavour was ‘Mango & Green Tea’ – which was delicious – and more recently, they have concocted ‘The Socceroos’ – a green pandan sponge cake mixed into a lemon cream and custard gelato and ‘Candy Mountain’ – creaming soda sorbet with vanilla gelato, speckled with candy and served with pop-rocks.

If you can’t decide on just one flavour, you can get a Coppa Venezia decorated cup which has 15 flavours (!) for $30. If you’re ambitious but not that ambitious, there’s also an eat in cup for 2 with 5 flavours for $12.

Sophia was first to choose and happily went for the Nutella flavoured gelato:

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I took a bit longer and tried as many flavours as was polite before it became a tie between the ‘Australian Jewels’ – a blend of vanilla creme, macadamia nuts and toffee and the ‘Salted Caramel & Peanut Brittle’ which was a-ma-zing and, dare I say it, better than the Messina Salted Caramel.

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As usual, Mark ordered the Hazelnut knowing full well that I will steal some from him. He is such a good sharer.

And here is a close-up if you’re not already drooling with excitement:

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If you feel like ice-cream alfresco and on your picnic blanket, you can purchase a takeaway tub to go from the huge range at the same time you pick up your pork belly from Pronto – they can wrap up the tub in layers of paper to keep it frozen and I was told it will take about 45 minutes until it starts to melt – perfect timing to eat pork belly and then have dessert.

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 Your only difficulty will be selecting the flavour – Good luck!

Check out the Art of Gelato Michelangelo website for more details and the Art of Gelato Michelangelo Facebook page to find out the flavour of the week!

Final Note

Although picnics are generally seen as a ‘summer’ activity there is no need to abandon picnics in the winter months. In Australia, we really have no excuse – it rarely snows and our winter days are generally sunny and fresh, rather than freezing.

Getting outdoors and enjoying a picnic in winter is a breeze.

All you need is an adventurous spirit, some extra layers, a comforting dish and your favourite people to warm your heart like no other way.

Thanks to Anita, David and Pia for joining The Picnic Press!

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Next week on The Picnic Press: We finally head South of the CBD for Souvlaki and my latest dessert love – Loukoumades!

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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THE ABBOTSBURY ANTIPASTO PICNIC

If you read the subject line and thought, “What’s an Abbotsbury?” then I encourage you to read on. (Hint: It’s a place…in Sydney).

When I was at uni and subsequently working in the Sydney CBD, I was surprised to meet many adventurous people who had lived in Sydney their entire lives and who had never ventured to South West Sydney.

There’s a whole world out there, people!

From European to Asian, to Middle Eastern to South American, South West Sydney is one of the most culturally diverse areas in all of Australia. The delightful upshot of this is that it’s a region with many beautiful and authentic cuisines to be experienced and enjoyed. It’s where people learn to cook traditional, cultural delicacies by osmosis from their mothers, fathers, and grandparents, rather than from a cooking show or recipe book.

What that means is that you can find seriously delicious food in Sydney’s South West. You know, the kind of food that doesn’t rely on hype or fussy presentation or fancy decor or price to justify its worth. The kind of food that is just good, honest, enjoyable food.

For our first Western Sydney edition, we explored three neighbouring suburbs in the City of Fairfield in South West Sydney, starting with Edensor Park (for food), via Bonnyrigg (for coffee), and to Abbotsbury (for our picnic). This little pocket of suburbs has a particularly dominant Italian community which is apparent from the abundant range of delicatessens and continental grocery stores in the area. In fact, in Abbotsbury, the 2011 Census found that 22.5% of its residents recorded their ancestry as Italian. That’s almost one quarter!

In honour of this, we decided on an Italian ‘antipasto-style’ lunch picnic.

Here’s our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Fred’s One Stop Shopping, Edensor Park

Coffee:   Cafe Harvest, Bonnyrigg Garden Centre, Bonnyrigg

Picnic:   “The Dairy” at Western Sydney Regional Park, Abbotsbury

FOOD:

FRED’S ONE STOP SHOPPING

 661-671 Smithfield Road, Edensor Park 

Fred’s One Stop Shopping, or just “Fred’s” as it is known to the locals, is part of a family owned and run fruit and vegetable empire that was established in Western Sydney in the early 1960s. It’s one of the best in the area for fresh fruit and veggies and to prove the point, in 2014, Fred’s won its second Fairfield City Business of the Year award and the title of most outstanding fruit and vegetable shop for the fifth time.

As well as the huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies, Fred’s also sells a mouth watering selection of cheese and cold cuts from the Delicatessen and a range of continental groceries.

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Here’s what we picked out for our antipasto picnic:

♦   Mixed marinated olives with a scoop of extra Sicilian green olives for me. (I only like the hard olives).

♦   Jamon Serrano Prosciutto sliced very thin. (The only way).

♦   Vecchiet Calypso Hot Salami – We were assured this was the hottest of the lot. (It has to be hot).

♦   Pepperdews stuffed with fetta cheese – These are small marinated peppers which are sweet but with a mild heat complemented by creamy, salty fetta cheese. (Trust us, they’re amazing).

♦   Buffalo mozzarella – Need I say more? It ended up also being a perfect balance to the prosciutto and hot salami.

♦    Olive Panini – Those delish rectangle rolls that kind of feel a little oily with a hard chewy outer crust and flour dusting.

Buon appetito!

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If you are after something more filling or substantial, there is also a salad bar which sells prepared salads, and for dessert, browse the aisles of continental cakes and biscuits, or pick up some creamy Greek yoghurt and fruit.

Check out Fred’s website for more details. 

COFFEE:


CAFE HARVEST

Bonnyrigg Garden Centre, Cnr Elizabeth Drive & Wilson Road, Bonnyrigg

The Bonnyrigg Garden Centre has been around for 40 years and sells a range of plants and gardening accessories. I have no green thumbs and have, through basic negligence, killed all plants and herb patches gifted to me. So lucky for the plants, it also recently opened up a lifestyle centre within its grounds which is home to the Cafe Harvest. Now there’s something for everyone!

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This little cafe serves a good coffee drop and has become a popular breakfast and lunch spot due to its pretty location in a beautiful and unique garden setting.

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Take a walk around and smell the spiky green plants…? Don’t worry, there’s roses too.

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There’s also a homewares store next to Cafe Harvest which sells a variety of gifts, furniture, and household accessories!

The Bonnyrigg Garden Centre is only a short drive from Fred’s and on the way to our picnic destination. See the Bonnyrigg Gardens Centre website for more details.

PICNIC:

“THE DAIRY” AT WESTERN SYDNEY PARKLANDS

Cowpasture Road, Abbotsbury (turn left at the roundabout)

Set in the heart of Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Parklands comprises 5280 hectares that streches 27km from Blacktown in the north to Leppington in the south. To give you an idea of the scale of this, it is 16 times the size of Sydney’s Centennial Parklands (!).

We went to “The Dairy” which is a smaller venue located in Abbotsbury via Cowpasture Road for our picnic.

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This section is good for groups who are after a quieter and more picnic oriented visit to the Parklands or to read a book on the grass and take some time out.

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If you go up to the crest of the hill, you will see gorgeous open views of the surrounding landscapes and can find picnic tables (with shelter) and facilities.

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We set up our picnic close to “The Dairy” gates, as this little section has a stunning outlook. See what we mean?

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Here’s how we assembled our antipasto-style picnic:

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And here are some close ups for food porn factor:

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We aren’t fussy so didn’t bother with plates or cutlery for this one. We did bring a nice wooden board and a jar for the olives but this isn’t mandatory – technically, you could just eat off the deli paper and out of the containers provided, but we are suckers for presentation and making it look special and encourage you to do the same!

All you need to do to make a delicious lunch is tear up some bread, add some prosciutto and mozzarella and Roberto is your zio.

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Facilities

→  BBQ facilities: There are 4 electric BBQs located throughout the picnic ground.

→  Shelter: There are sheltered picnic tables (in a very modern design) which are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

→  ToiletsThere is a toilet block near the picnic tables.

→  Dogs: Dogs are allowed to walk anywhere in the Parklands but must be on a lead at all times.

→  Parking: There is a formal car park up near the picnic tables, but you can also park along the drive on your way in. If you’re driving, the gates are open from 8 am to 7 pm daily and 8am to 5pm during the months of June, July and August.

→  Bicycles: Bring your bike because there is a cycling track which runs for 27 kilometres if you need to burn off your picnic lunch.

→  Walking: If you’re not into bikes, bring your walking shoes, as the bike track also accommodates walkers / runners. Sorry, no excuses!

See the Western Sydney Parklands website for more details.

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Final note

There is so much to discover in Western Sydney (including the South West) and not too many people writing about it, so we have made it our personal mission to keep exploring and updating you on these gems.

The bonus of having a vast cultural mix in the area means there is so much variety to suit any craving. It’s a region where you will find a kebab van parked around the corner from a shop making cevapi rolls, in walking distance of a delicatessen serving panini and beside a Vietnamese bakery assembling Bánh mì.

We have so much inspiration for delicious and fun picnics, coming up!

Next week on The Picnic Press: We do an express lunch time picnic in the Sydney CBD. See? There’s always time for a picnic.

Ciao amici!

L&M

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

THE WATSONS BAY FISH & CHIPS PICNIC

Last weekend, The Picnic Press hosted my gorgeous cousin, Stephanie, who was visiting us from The Netherlands where she has been living it up for the past year with her boyfriend, Corey, who is a bona fide international DJ sensation (DJ name: Code Black). It’s so cool, I can’t even make that up.

Steph has been missing her home-town of Sydney and the weather was smashing so we decided to be tourists in our own city for the day and enjoy what people come to Sydney for. We invited my brother, Adrian, his wife, Kristina (Kiki), and my sister, Nadia to join in.

Here’s how we spent our day:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Doyles on the Wharf Takeaway, Watsons Bay

Picnic:   Robertson Park, Watsons Bay

Coffee & cheeky ice-cream sundae:    Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Watsons Bay

 

What could be more ‘Sydney’ than sitting by the harbour fending off seagulls while tucking into fish and chips?

Adding in a ferry ride, that’s what!

Sydney-siders are blessed with one of the most beautiful forms of transport in the world. Yes, you can drive to Watsons Bay but its so much more fun by ferry. You can skip traffic and parking hassles and instead enjoy beautiful views like this one:

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There’s something about travelling by ferry that changes your perspective and makes you feel like you are going on a happy adventure. Besides, you really don’t need a car for this picnic as there is nothing to pack other than your picnic blanket.

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We got on the ferry at Rose Bay which is the last ferry stop before Watsons Bay and a beautiful part of Sydney to wait around for the ferry to arrive. I easily found four hour free parking on New South Head Road, adjacent to the Rose Bay promenade.

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For us, it was a short but joyous ride with the wind in our hair and smiles on our faces as we soaked up the salty breeze and harbour views from the deck.

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We arrived conveniently at our next destination – Doyles on the Wharf – which is located as soon as you get off the ferry.

Ferries operate from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay between 10am and 3pm weekdays and between 9am and 6:30pm weekends and public holidays. Check the timetable to be safe. If you want to stretch out the tourist and/or ferry experience, get on at Circular Quay. 

 

FOOD:

DOYLES ON THE WHARF TAKEAWAY

Fishermans Wharf – Marine Parade, Watsons Bay

If we’re talking Watsons Bay and fish and chips, we’re talking Doyles.

Doyles is a Sydney institution owned and operated by the same family for over five generations since 1885 (!) which makes it Australia’s oldest seafood restaurant. You can therefore be assured they know all things seafood.

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The menu has a great mix of grilled and battered options as well as fresh seafood packs and oysters, so you can go as light or as filling as you like.

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I’m not generally a fan of batter so I ordered the grilled barramundi pack, but I managed to distract Kiki (cue point in opposite direction with loud, “What is THAT?!”) to pinch one of her calamari rings. The batter was light, crisp, and delicious and not at all ‘gloopy’, which is how I usually describe battered stuff. Next time, I will definitely be ordering the calamari as well!

The tartare sauce that came with my fish had the perfect balance of sweet and sharp and a nice lemony zing.

Oh and the oysters? Well, they were as amazing and fresh as they looked!

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If you’re after a more upmarket experience sans picnic blanket, you can head to the restaurant, Doyles on the Beach, which is just opposite Doyles on the Wharf. See the Doyles website for more information. Thanks to Doyles on the Wharf who supplied our delicious lunch!

 

PICNIC:

ROBERTSON PARK, WATSONS BAY

Marine Parade, Watsons Bay and just opposite Doyles on the Wharf!

Robertson Park in Watsons Bay has been a popular spot for picnickers since the land was handed over to the public in 1906. I’ve done my research and according to the 1910 Tourist Guide to Watsons Bay and Vaucluse, it was named an ‘agreeable resting place for visitors’, and yes, I have to, well, agree.

Why jostle for a table at a crowded cafe when you can have perfect, uninterrupted views of the Harbour on your own picnic blanket?! We set ours up under a beautiful old fig tree with leaves that gently rustled with the breeze as we settled in to enjoy our fish and chips.

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It was so good that there was nothing left for the seagulls.

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After lunch, we took a stroll past lines of boats, feeling like we were somewhere far, far away. Proof that doing something ‘touristy’ in your own city will give you that magical holiday feeling.

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Robertson Park has all the facilities you expect – toilets, children’s playground, park benches and tables – and some you don’t expect – a rotunda and ferry access. See the Woollahra Council website for more details.  

 

COFFEE & A CHEEKY ICE-CREAM SUNDAE:

WATSONS BAY BOUTIQUE HOTEL

1 Military Road, Watsons Bay

I know we have so far specialised in delicious takeaway coffee enjoyed via our picnic blanket, but sometimes opportunities come up in life that you don’t plan for and that you cannot say no to. This was one of them.

As we strolled past the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, a glamorous watering hole perfect for watching the sunset over a beer, our eagle (or seagull) eye spotted someone from afar eating an ice-cream sundae.

We headed inside and noticed the Hotel also did Toby’s Estate coffee (tick √) and so placed an order.

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And while we waited, we investigated the menu and realised the sundae was no ordinary sundae – it was a chocolate fudge brownie sundae with salted caramel ice-cream and candied walnuts. Yeah, like we could say no to that!

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Our only disappointment was the size of the spoon provided – the way the sundae glass is shaped meant we couldn’t completely get to the bottom and it was too good to leave even just a little bit behind.

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Check out the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel website here. You can also get takeaway coffee to enjoy on your picnic if your sundae willpower is stronger than ours!

Other things to do in Watsons Bay:

→  Go for a walk: Check out The Gap – an ocean cliff on the eastern side, which has views to Manly and the Pacific Ocean, as well as Hornby Lighthouse for great views.

→  Go for a swim: In summer, bring your swimmers for a nearby dip in Camp Cove. If you forget your swimmers or are simply more daring, then head to Lady Bay Beach (a legal nudist beach).

A final reflection

The other night, I had to go to Westfields to pick up a birthday present. Whilst I was there, I thought I might check out new season knitwear and four hours passed without me even noticing. Four hours. I heard the 15 minute closing announcement in David Jones and thought, “How the bleep did that happen?!” Time had simply evaporated as I unconsciously wandered without purpose or reason. I left with the frustration that I had spent almost a quarter of my day in a vegetative retail state.

On the other hand, what Mark and I have been noticing from our picnic escapades is how ‘full’ our time picnicking feels. This Watsons Bay adventure took the same amount of time as my shopping blackout period but there was so much more ‘bang for buck’, so to speak.

We laughed…

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We connected…

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We loved…

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And we lived.

L&M

Coming up on The Picnic Press: If you’re a dog lover, you will love what we have in store for you next week, plus we share our first recipe!

P.S If you enjoyed these photos, check out Mark’s professional work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

THE FRESHWATER PANINI PICNIC

Last Sunday, The Picnic Press hosted our first guests – our dear friends, Kylie and Angelo, and their gorgeous girls, Sienna and Asher (‘Ashie’). Kylie and Ang are from the Northern Beaches so we had the brilliant idea of taking our picnic blanket to them to capture the last bit of Autumn sun by the beach.

Mark and I had run the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon that morning so we were pretty keen to avoid using our legs for the rest of the day. That meant we had to locate food, coffee, and a picnic spot with a view, all in a very tight location. Challenge accepted!

Here’s what we decided to do:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Pilu Kiosk

Coffee:   Pilu Kiosk

Picnic:   Freshwater Reserve, overlooking beautiful Freshwater beach

 

FOOD:

PILU KIOSK

 End of Moore Road, Freshwater

Pilu restaurant opened in 2005 and has been awarded two Chef’s Hats by Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide every year since for its quality Sicilian cuisine. It’s located in a beautiful heritage-listed weatherboard beach house perched above Freshwater beach, which is between Manly and Curl Curl beaches.

The Pilu Kiosk is a little offshoot of the restaurant located next door to Pilu and specialises in casual dining and takeaway panini, pastries and coffee.

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I was lucky enough to first dine at Pilu restaurant for a wedding in 2009. The food was a-ma-zing. In fact, it was so good, I still distinctly remember the main course almost five years later – snapper fillet baked in Italian white wine and encrusted with tart green olives (That’s right, hey Jackie?). Yum!

My dining experience at Pilu was however unfortunately stymied by a wardrobe malfunction that I have chosen to share as a lesson for my girls out there.

I decided on the day of the wedding that the dress I was wearing required a waist belt. I made a dash to the shops and found one to match but the only size available was a size too small. I purchased it anyway, figuring I could channel my inner fashion MacGyver and punch an extra belt hole so that it just fit, alas, not so comfortably.

This was all fine until post-ceremony when they started serving canapés. I am someone who likes trying little bits of everything. It frustrates my family to no end when they find half a biscuit or a bite stolen from their meal when they are not looking. Most of the time, just one bite is all I want and need.

Canapés are therefore my kryptonite. I was practically stalking waiters to sample the delicious morsels. My inability to say no and/or pace myself caused a serious dilemma once we sat down to the three course dinner and I realised I had no other “emergency” belt hole.

‘Why not just take the belt off?’, you say. Well, I come from a “beauty is pain” school of mothering, so this was not an option – I arrived in the belt, I had to leave in the belt. Refusing dinner was not an option either. I had read the menu and it wasn’t going to happen.

So I pushed through.

I made a pact with myself that it would all be okay provided I stopped consuming liquids. As the night wore on, I became really thirsty.  I clapped through speeches while imagining the relief of ripping that damn belt off. I danced without breathing. I gritted my teeth and smiled for photos while cursing the belt in my head. I suffered.

When it came time to remove the belt a mere six hours later, my stomach didn’t know what to make of its sudden freedom and it panicked. I was unwell.

I learnt two important lessons that night: 1) Pace yourself, lady and 2) In future, don’t let anything hold you back.

I therefore wore my comfy jeans to our picnic, just in case. I knew ahead of time what I wanted – the famed Pilu Kiosk signature roast suckling pig panini. It was my main motivator while running that morning. Also, this panini had become somewhat of an urban legend for me. I had stopped in several times at Pilu Kiosk previously and each time they were sold out. This time, I was definitely getting one so I made Kylie and Ang meet us for lunch at 11am.

In case you hadn’t heard, the suckling pig panini is made with signature Pilu suckling pig. Yes, that’s right. You are pretty much getting Pilu restaurant specialty, without the restaurant price tag.

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The panini is served on lightly toasted Sonoma bread filled with succulent pork with sweet apple, shaved fennel and rocket, and then drizzled with a mustard mayonnaise. The pork is so tender, so I can see why it is legendary. One word of warning, however – don’t expect crackling. If crackling is what you’re after, we’ve got plans to share our hidden gem which sells amazing pork with crackling in a later issue, so you don’t miss out.

We set up our picnic at a beautiful spot in Freshwater Reserve overlooking Freshwater beach with the sun on our backs and tucked in.

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Check out The Kiosk website. Note: the suckling pig panino is a big seller so we recommend getting there early to avoid disappointment – if you miss out, don’t worry, there are other delicious sandwich varieties and breakfast options too.

COFFEE:


PILU KIOSK

End of Moore Road, Freshwater – as above

Pilu Kiosk specialises in takeaway Lavazza coffee and for the girls, “chinos” (babycinos). We let our lunch settle and then wandered back for a coffee later in the afternoon.

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I don’t take sugar in my coffee but I love a cappuccino because I enjoy that little sweet aftertaste at the end. The best part about Pilu Kiosk’s cappuccino is that they use real chocolate shaving on top. Ashie approves.

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PICNIC:

FRESHWATER RESERVE

End of Moore Road, Freshwater and just in front of Pilu – too easy!

Freshwater Reserve isn’t a huge space but it does have the same million dollar views as Pilu restaurant.

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What could be better than beach views, sunshine, salt air, suckling pig panini and a coffee/’chino’?!

Sharing it with our friends, that’s what.

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Being friends for over 25 years means we now look a bit same-sies

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I’m pretty sure Kyles is laughing because Sienna called me a “hippomapotamus” when I asked her what kind of animal I am. Don’t you just love honesty?

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Ashie rocks the ‘nonna socks’

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That hair! Love!!

That’s the beauty of a picnic. It gives us the perfect chance to catch up with our loved ones, have a laugh and engage in simple pleasures with no distractions.

That’s how we like it!

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Facilities

→  Tables: There are a couple of sheltered picnic tables, but you need to be quick to grab these.

→  Toilets: Public toilets can be found in the neighbouring Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club.

→  Playground: There is a small play area with swings for the kiddies, although Sienna and Ashie had just as much fun picking flowers and enjoying their ‘chinos’.

→  Parking: We managed to get free all day parking on Charles Street, just down the road (outside Harboard Beach Hotel). There is also a car park directly out front, but you may have to pay for parking.

→  BBQ facilities: If you are so inclined, there are BBQ facilities here as well.

→  Beach: In summer, you are perfectly positioned to make a stroll down to the beach so don’t forget to pack your swimmers!

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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.