I was grateful to receive a Gourmet Safaris voucher from some lovely friends recently. You can choose either a bus tour or a walking tour, and I decided a bus tour would be nice (even though a bit of walking whilst eating is a good idea). I love French food, and seeing as the earliest one I could make was on a Wednesday, I decided a break in the middle of the work week would be nice.
We had one of the smallest groups our host Marie had taken, and at 18 people it was a nice number being not too big.
We started our day with a visit to Ganache Patisserie in Castlecrag, where the owner and chefs showed us how they make croissants and other pastries and the techniques they use to decorate their cakes. It was a very interesting process where you watch as the cake is transformed. Each addition makes it looks more complete, until the finishing touches are added and the cake is complete.
After the demonstration, Garanche Patisserie served us a French breakfast, or by this time for me, it was morning tea. We were given a large bowl of hot chocolate or coffee (or whatever you wanted to order), with a basket of cut baguettes, chocolate croissant and another croissant type pastry served with butter and apricot jam. I never buy or eat apricot jam as I can’t stand any that I have tried – until now, this was amazing jam – so amazing I had to buy some and take it home. The baguettes were the best I have tried. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and they worked perfectly with the butter and jam. We were unfortunately too late (at 10.30am) for me to try an almond croissant (a favourite of mine), as they had sold out. I would have loved to have tried it. Perhaps I will have to go back on my own sometime.
Next we went to a butcher that was nothing like anything I had ever seen – Victor Churchill in Woollahra . The display in the front window looked like it was from a jewellery store. With a Valentines theme, different types of meat were placed on ingredients they were “made for”. Beautiful meats were visible in the cold-rooms behind glass, while the experienced butchers prepared meat in front of the customers behind the glassed preparation areas. They had their own drying and salting room, which had glass walls, except for the one at the back which was made of salt “bricks” which help remove the moisture for the meat as they hang and age for 28 days. We were able to try some of their prosciutto and pork rigullettes, which were both gorgeous.
The Essential ingredient  in Rozelle was next, and for most of us foodies was somewhere we had been before. To begin with there was a demonstration of some of their French items, which would be good for someone who is in need of some new items, although many of the brands were just too expensive for me. I was lucky to get a Le Creuset pot for Christmas which I am very grateful for, so I didn’t really need to buy any more cookware. I did stock up on a few other items for my pantry though and a few nice serving-ware pieces.
For lunch we went to La Grande Bouffe , just down the road from the Essential Ingredient. The staff and chef were friendly and very attentive. We were greeted with a glass of champagne and baguette. The Chef came and described what we were having for lunch and was happy to answer any questions. We were served a Gruyere cheese soufflé to start with, which had a beautiful in texture and taste. Next came the main with white or red wine. The main was salmon with pesto, caper, olive, capsicum salad. Everything was cooked beautifully and the wine kept coming.
After lunch came chocolate (the chocolate only came before cheese due to the locations of the places we were visiting). We visited Belle Fleur Chocolates  in Petersham and met Jan Ter Heerdt who is a very experienced chocolatier and owner of Belle Fleur Fine Chocolates.
Jan went through how chocolate is made, with samples of the cocoa bean, 99% cocoa chocolate, single origin chocolate, 66% cocoa chocolate and an amazing 4 or so flavoured and hand made chocolates from their range. One of these was my absolute favourite, which is what Jan called a traditional Belgium chocolate. It was dark chocolate encasing caramel, cream and a milk chocolate cream topping. It was lovely.
Last but not least we visited Simon Johnson  in Alexandria for our cheese fill for the day. We arrived to be greeted by a very large amount of cheese to sample. I was more than happy to have a past bad experience with goats cheese now corrected. My two favourites (and the most mildest) were the goat’s milk cheese: Caridoux and the cow’s milk Fromage de Meaux.
The day complete, we left with cheese, jam, chocolate and some serving-ware. I just wish I had bought a baguette earlier in the day – like most of the other people on the tour did…
I really enjoyed the tour, and have seen quite a few others on the Gourmet Safaris website that I would love to go on.