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
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.
There’s a good range of continental groceries…
Tip: pick up some Ajvar to go with your pork – it is a delicious Balkan relish made from roasted capsicum and garlic.
… and then your eye travels to the succulent rows of expertly roasted pork belly.
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:
And, more importantly, how did it taste?
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.
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:
And, look how excited she is to join our picnic!
We set up our picnic with our packed salads and tucked into our still-warm and delicious pork belly.
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:
2) Tickle torture is completely necessary to stay warm:
3) As is flying a tiny human plane:
4) And best of all, huddling and cuddling becomes completely mandatory:
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.
→ 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
Next week on The Picnic Press: We finally head South of the CBD for Souvlaki and my latest dessert love – Loukoumades!
P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.