Having promised last month that I’d sample as much pork as I could get my trotters on, while enjoying a fortnight holidaying in far north Queensland, here are a few highlights.
As is the case when on holidays, eating out is the norm – from breakfast to lunch to dinner.
We, however – in an effort to ‘keep a lid’ on our ‘bread baskets’ – often opted for only breakfast and an evening or late afternoon meal.
Skipping a formal lunch – or only snacking – balanced the budget too.
Dining out is usually a revelation of mouth-watering and tantalising tastes, and hopefully fresh interesting ingredients preferably sourced locally. And typically it’s fun too.
Though it can be expensive, particularly in recent times when hospitality venues are playing COVID catch-up – while simultaneously battling staff shortages and input cost hikes as they cater to a growing number of holiday makers, many on the move for the first time in two years.
Such was the case in the second half of August in far north Queensland. Which, at that time of year, is usually the case, when southerners – and westerners – rush to trade the cold of winter for a taste of tropical warmth.
Of course, it was no surprise that prices were inflated in Port Douglas – infamously put on the map and forever morphed from a humble coastal fishing village 35 years ago by the infamous ‘smoke and mirrors’ entrepreneur Christopher Skase, developer of the appropriately named Mirage Resort.
While I commented last month that we were looking forward to the five-course degustation dinner at Nautilus – the must-do Port Douglas 65-year-old restaurant – the tab of $355 for two was about as steep as the pathway climbed to get there from the main drag.
OK, the food was quality – albeit small servings for my appetite – the ambience restful and the staff attentive. I admit to not being a fan of degustation dining.
Further to my earlier point, I understand kitchen staff shortages were the reason for Nautilus moving from an à la carte to degustation.
One of my more interesting pork plates was enjoyed at Melaleuca on Wharf St in Port Douglas. Billed as ‘Bangalow pork belly’, it matched the melt-in-the-mouth pork belly with parsnip puree, roasted baby onion, green beans, crispy pig ears and pan jus.
Yum, yum, pig’s bum… OK belly.
While I’ve often bought pig ears to feed to my blue heelers, I don’t think I’ve ever paid to eat them in a restaurant. I’m glad I have now. Crispy, of course, crunchy and just plain fun.
Ear, ear, I say.
At $40, the dish was good value and well paired with a glass of Taylor Made pinot noir from the Adelaide Hills.
I must reveal that one of the stranger pork flavoured combos I enjoyed was in the hills at Kuranda – a laid-back relaxing mountain village 25km west of Cairns.
Never a big fan of savoury crepes, though faced with no options when we happened to chase coffee down at the very French Petit Café, I opted for breakfast of smokey pork chorizo crepe.
Resembling a pizza more than a crepe, it was très délicieux – in other words, it was very tasty.
A fermented, cured and smoked pork sausage, chorizo is the versatile add-on to so many dishes, including pizzas and, as I now know, crepes!
Of course, bacon turned up regularly at buffet breakfasts but I always found myself hankering for my own home-cooked D’Orsogna streaky bacon rashers.
Now back home and quietly digesting two fabulous ‘foodie’ weeks spent wisely in far north Queensland, it’s almost time to ponder what’s next on my meandering menu.
Until next time, bon appétit.