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Spring is on the menu in Castlemaine

Shake off winter and celebrate the abundance of the season at some of Castlemaine’s best (and newest) eateries.

Theatre Royal Castlemaine

The longest operating theatre on the mainland, the Theatre Royal recently opened their new restaurant, Bistro Lola, to complement their existing Espresso Bar.

Head chef Sarah Curwen-Walker describes Spring food as fresh and colourful. “Everything is lighter, brighter and more fragrant.”

A Spring menu must is the pan fried gnocchi with fresh spring vegetables like broad beans, peas, asparagus and the spectacular romanesco cauliflower and served with fresh horseradish, mint, mascarpone and garnished with beautiful pink and purple pea blossoms.

Freshness is key at this time of year so Sarah suggests making the most of our wonderful farmers markets and buying ingredients straight from the source.

Visit this Spring for pizza and wine specials, new films and exciting live music. Follow them on Instagram @bistrolola @theatreroyalcastlemaine on Facebook @theatreroyalcastlemaine or call 03 5472 1196.

Bress Wine, Cider & Produce

Crafting fine wines, ciders and produce using biodynamic practices, Bress welcome Spring each year with the re-opening of the Bress Kitchen.

Founder and Head Wine and Cider Maker, Adam Marks, describes Spring food as fresh and life affirming.

Broad beans are a favourite ingredient. Delicious raw, lightly blanched or cooked in the pod and a perfect match for another Spring staple, the Bress Kitchen overnight wood fire roasted 2 tooth lamb shoulder, which is served on a bed of broad beans sautéed in the lamb jus.

“I love lamb and with all the fresh grass about Spring lamb, and particularly 2-tooth lamb, has great flavour,” says Adam.

Join Adam for lunch on the last weekend of each month from October, starting with their fabulous spit roasted pork.

Follow them on Instagram @bresswinecider on Facebook @bresswinecider or call 03 5474 2262.

Fig Cafe

Each day the enticing display cabinet at Fig is filled with mouth watering, freshly baked cakes and pastries, platters laden with salads of seasonal vegetables and grains, and savoury delights.

Fresh is everything and the influences are broad, reflective of modern eating. Julia Bandelli, who co-owns the business with her mother Victoria Falconer, says as the season changes their menu moves away from roasted dishes to lighter foods like salads and raw foods.

The edame tartine, a charred sourdough base topped with vibrant green Japanese peas and drizzled with fresh olive oil screams Spring and raw or lightly pickled vegetable like zucchini and cauliflower deliver great flavour and texture.

“With the start of Spring comes the promise of delicious things like tomatoes, basil and stone fruit,” says Julia. “That’s the great thing about seasonal eating.”

Follow them on Instagram @figcastlemaine on Facebook @figcastlemaine or call 03 5472 5311.

 

Togs Place & Mulberrys Delicatessen

Known for great coffee and homemade food Togs Place is a family-friendly café with a roof top deck that’s one of the best spots in town on a sunny Spring morning.

The menu changes daily and in Spring it’s out with casseroles and in with dishes like pasta prima vera, light Spring minestrone soup and zingy Vietnamese chicken salad.

Next door is Mulberrys Delicatessen, stocking Australian and European cheeses, meats, house made products like chutneys and biscuits and eclectic gifts.

Manager Cas Davey’s pick for Spring is local soft goat cheese from small producers like Holy Goat in Sutton Grange.

“The goats have just kidded so the milk is abundant, sweet and light and this makes for a really delicious cheese,” she says. “Try pairing it with our smoked Harris Gravlax and New Zealand Oat Crackers for your next Spring party.”

Follow them on Instagram @mulberrysdeli on Facebook @togsplacecafe call Togs Place on 5470 5490 or Mulberrys on 5472 1652.

Cadillac Shack

Spring has brought a new American-inspired family-friendly eatery to Castlemaine. Cadillac Shack is the vision of Castlemaine locals, Graeme and Gilda Ayerst, who have transformed the Mostyn Street premises into a 100-seat diner.

Featuring burgers, ribs, fries, salads, sundaes, shakes and a range of freak-shakes (extreme milk shakes) as well as a more extensive international menu. The range of burgers on the menu was voted the best in Melbourne by The Age Good Food Guide 2014/15.

“One of our business partners runs a very successful restaurant in outer Melbourne and their award-winning burger range has been included on our menu,” says Graeme.

We can’t wait to try.

Follow them on Instagram @cadillac_shack on Facebook @cadillacshack or call 03 5416 1486.

 

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Maldon Primary: balancing academics and wellbeing

Maldon Primary grade prep/one students working on some fun maths games in class. Image supplied by Maldon Primary School.

Deciding where to send your kids to school can be agonising, especially if you’re moving to a new town. In the Mount Alexander Shire we offer everything from state to Steiner education and from tiny one class schools to large contemporary colleges.

We thought we’d drop in and ask the schools to share what makes them unique. First up, Maldon Primary.

“Maldon Primary is a warm and friendly place to send your child,” says Principal, Jodie Mengler.

Jodie has been at Maldon for 19 years, five as principal, and says the school, which currently has enrolments of 94 students, is strong in both academics and student wellbeing.

In 2016 Maldon was named in the top five most improved primary schools in Australia based on data shared on the Federal Government’s, My Schools website.

“We’ve been on a huge improvement journey over the last three years implementing programs to ensure every child is able to reach their full potential and thrive,” she says.

The Kids as Catalyst Program, an innovative, child-led social change program for grades 4 – 6 children, is one she’s particularly proud of.

“The kids work like mini philanthropists, developing partnerships with community groups, working out what they need and implementing a project,” she says.

“Children often find it hard to step into the shoes of others,” Jodie adds. “With Catalyst they identify and solve real problems and learn how rewarding giving back can be.”

The school has recently worked with the Maldon Men’s Shed, Maldon Pre-School and the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). A group this year is working with Maldon Hospital to introduce animals for therapy.

Maldon Primary School main building

When you visit the school you can’t help but be wowed by the grounds. Whether it’s AFL, soccer, playing in sand, in the music garden, feeding the chooks or the fish, working in the vegie garden (where the children regularly harvest and cook meals to share), using the fitness equipment or just dragging branches to build cubbies, the opportunities for play are vast.

The school buildings reflect the heritage and history of the town (Australia’s first Notable Town) but look inside and you’ll discover thoroughly contemporary learning spaces thanks to over half a million dollars of building upgrades which have just been completed.

“It’s all about creating an environment where the children love coming to school and where parents know their children will be happy and safe,” says Jodie.

“The partnerships we have with parents and the wider community are so important to us. We want families to be part of the school community and know that we value their input into their child’s education.”

Like to know more? Visit Maldon Primary School, call 03 5475 1484 or email maldon.ps@edumail.vic.gov.au

 

 

Maldon goes plastic bag free

It’s estimated one trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide. The Maldon community is taking a stand against waste, joining 30 other towns in the Loddon Mallee region to become a Plastic Bag Free Town.

Australians use over 10 million new plastic bags every day. Each bag can take up to 1,000 years to break down, meaning that every plastic bag ever produced is still in a landfill. Those that are blown away, dumped or littered end up in water systems and, ultimately, in the ocean where they are thought to be responsible for killing more than one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year.

The Loddon Mallee Waste and Resource Recovery Group (LMWRRG) and Maldon Inc have been working with stores throughout Maldon to help them become plastic bag free. The group says owners, managers and the general public have been hugely supportive throughout the transition process.

“We strongly encourage all Maldon residents to support the town traders and remember to take their reusable bags,” says Karen Fazzani, Executive Officer LMWRRG.

“Every effort in this regard helps protect the environment from damage plastic bags can cause especially when they take such a long time to break down.”

Stores that previously supplied plastic bags have been provided with a recycled paper alternative and re-usable calico bags will be available throughout the town. Boomerang Bags have also recently become available.

It’s hoped that as time goes on people will start to bring their own re-usable bags when they shop, removing the need for retailers to supply a bag altogether. To get everyone in the swing of things, throughout July people can enter the draw to win a hamper worth $250 every time they shop in Maldon with their re-usable bags.

“One of the actions in our Council Plan is to support Maldon and other communities to be plastic bag free, says Sharon Telford, Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire. “As a Maldon local, it’s fantastic for us to be the first plastic bag free town in Mount Alexander Shire.”

“Reusable bags are a simple and effective way that we can all reduce our impact on the environment. It’s small decisions that have a lasting impact and I’m very proud of our community for taking this step.”

The team at the Waller Realty office in Maldon are extremely supportive of the initiative and praised local traders for their commitment to protecting the environment.

“Becoming a Plastic Bag Free Town will make Maldon an even more appealing place to live and we congratulate everyone involved,” says Waller Realty’s Leah Panos.

Part of the Phamily

Sisters Nhung and Lani in their restaurant, Phamily Kitchen, Castlemaine. Image @lynchmobmedia

It has been a year since sisters Nhung and Lani Pham (the Pham in Phamily Kitchen) opened their own little slice of Vietnam in the heart of Castlemaine and we couldn’t be happier to help them celebrate.

The sisters describe their food as home-style. These are the dishes they grew up eating, but with their own twist, and Phamily Kitchen has wound its way into the hearts of Castlemaine locals and visitors.

The menu is focused on seasonal eating. Lunch is all about quick, fresh options for people with limited time. Dinner is more relaxed, encouraging sharing, talking and lingering over many delicious communal plates.

“Our passion for food is reflected in our dishes which are tasty, fresh and flavoursome but still traditional,” says Nhung.

Both sisters had careers in finance, brief for Lani, longer for Nhung, but they shared a vision of opening their own restaurant.

“We just had to find the right time and the right town,” says Lani who manages the kitchen after years honing her skills in restaurants in Melbourne’s north.

Once they decided on Castlemaine it took them six months to find the perfect location. When Narelle Waller of Waller Realty showed them an unassuming little shop on Barker Street they say they knew it was the one.

“We had debated whether to buy an established business or take a leap of faith and completely fit out a place ourselves,” says Nhung. “Once we saw this space we knew straight away this was it.”

It’s not hard to understand why. Towering ceilings wrapped in centuries old pressed tin reveal the building’s ancient past but the new fit out is totally contemporary. Long banquet seating is just made for cosy conversations over dinner and a collection of intricately woven light fittings of odd sizes, shapes and heights bob above diner’s heads, reminiscent of traditional fishing baskets. A delicate mural painted by an artist friend depicts scenes of rural Vietnamese life.

Ask them about their favourite menu items and Lani picks the classic beef noodle soup, especially over the colder months. From the seasonal menu, a kolrabi and beef salad takes both women back to their youth in Perth. Kolrabi is popular in Vietnamese cooking and for the Pham girls growing up, there was no escaping it in winter.

“Dad was an avid vegetable grower,” says Nhung. “We didn’t grow up with traditional lawn to play on it was just garden beds and in winter half the garden was Kolrabi!”

For Nhung it’s the braised pork.

“My Dad loved having braised pork with rice and stir-fried vegetables so for me this is total comfort food.”

The sisters are thrilled Castlemaine has embraced their concept and welcomed them so warmly.

“We’re just ecstatic and so grateful for the way the town has taken us in,” says Lani.

Phamily Kitchen is open Tuesday – Saturday for lunch and dinner. Call them on 03 5470 6051 for bookings. You’ll also find them on Facebook or at www.phamilykitchencastlemaine.com.au