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Road Tripping, Dining & the Best Rocky Road

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

This week my significant other and I went on a road trip. Well it wasn’t really a road trip as we were travelling up to visit my ageing mother, however we were in the car together travelling north. There were only the two of us in the car, but for most of the trip my significant other was talking to the third wheel that had come along for the ride. Her name was Siri, and for much of the journey my companion was bellowing instructions at her. Play this song, give me directions to blah blah, where is the next rest stop….you get my drift. Most of the time she replied that ‘she wasn’t able to help him, something went wrong, please try again, or that he needed to log into his phone, or she repeated herself with dumb questions like ‘do you want to play the song on iCloud or iCloud? What the …..? I’m surprised he even bothered. Does anyones else’s significant other spend more time talking to Siri in the car than they do to you? I can’t tell you how much I wanted to tell her to bugger off, and when I finally, in exasperation, spoke some unprintable words, my significant other exclaimed ‘that Siri wasn’t helpful because she didn’t like me’. Really?!

When we’d driven just far enough and I was over listening to the unhelpful third wheel, we decided to leave the main highway heading north and divert to the small seaside village of Yamba where we would rest for the night. Yamba isn’t my place, we were just passing through, however we did enjoy sitting in the art Deco style Pacific Hotel perched high on the top of the hill and drinking one too many Stone and Wood shandies as we waited for the parade of trawlers to pass through the heads. Prawn boats I’d guessed, as the Yamba prawns are fat and sweet and enjoyed a long way from there, however tonight the prawn boats didn’t leave the swollen heads. I was told by the local bartender that the prawn fishermen prefer to head out under overcast skies and didn’t normally make the trip when it was a full moon as it wasn’t ideal for netting prawns. The wash from the heavy rains also decreases the salinity of the water which means the trawlers have to motor further out to net the prawns. Nevertheless we still enjoyed the magnificent view over the beaches below from the back bar of the hotel and the drinks and food weren’t too bad either. Seafood of course!

We had a restful night and the next morning we found a quaint little beach shack downtown where we sat in the garden and enjoyed the most sumptuous breakfast. The cafe also housed a general store where there were lots of little treasures and treats we would’ve been happy to depart with.

Angourie Cafe and General Store, Yamba

This brekkie bowl, with seasonal veggies, hash brown and poached egg at Angourie Cafe, Yamba

Our next stop about one hour north was to an old fashioned butchers shop in the main street of Alstonville. We called in to order some of the quality local Bangalow Pork which we would collect in a few days time, pack into an esky and take home with us.

We arrived in Lismore in the heat of the day and headed out to the nursing home where mum lived. Whilst she was happy to see us, she was also teary as there had been an incident earlier in the day that had agitated her. After a small stroke a few years back, her communication is now limited and it was hard for us to decipher exactly what it was that had upset her. As was often the case it appeared to be something to do with toileting and the staff not being attentive to her needs which resolved itself once we had spoken to the nurse. We spent the afternoon looking out to the courtyard garden and hearing stories about her youth, or at least some of the things she could remember through her muddied mind.

Under strict Covid protocol dished out to us by the nursing home staff, the next day we were able to take mum out to lunch to celebrate Christmas. This was something she looked forward to and enjoyed greatly as these days she rarely left the home. We went to a wonderful venue on the outskirts of Alstonville called Summerland Farm. Set in the lush green hills on the top of the Alstonville plateau, the farm is a fully functional avocado and macadamia farm funded by an NDIS grant and employing hundreds of people with disabilities. The farm also houses a children’s playground and waterpark, animals such as llamas and donkeys, a restaurant and cafe with an on-site gift shop, a plant nursery and a factory where produce is packed, and jams, chutneys and other food items are made by the well trained staff. Mum had the most wonderful day, was impressed by her fish and chips (the best she had ever eaten) and was in awe of how exemplary the staff were, all well trained and efficient. We had a lovely walk around the manicured gardens and it was so pleasant for all of us, but especially for mum. We returned to visit mum the next morning and she was especially chuffed to show us that the plant she had purchased had been put into the ground in the courtyard garden.

Pork Belly, Summerland Farm, Alstonville

Each day after visiting mum we would return to the Ramada Hotel in Ballina, our home away from home where we would always stay when we visited Lismore and we would sit out on the lawn beside the river and enjoy a drink together before dinner. We soaked up the serenity by the river, waking each morning to watch the outrigger canoes glide past our window and in the evening the fishing trawlers heading out for the night to net prawns. Ballina, like Yamba is also known for its world class prawns and as you drive into town has an iconic big prawn to reflect that. Some afternoons we would enjoy some drunken prawns and naked oysters at Mezza at the Point with our cold bevy. When you’re in the prawn capital you might as well eat prawns.

Prawn Trawlers at dusk, Richmond River, Ballina

On the final evening of our stay in Ballina, my significant other and I dined together at the most cosy little cafe arguably serving the best food in town. Lola Dining is owned and operated by Rosa and Olivia, two very experienced chefs that had met whilst working at some of Sydney’s finest dining venues. Deciding it was time for a sea change they relocated to Ballina bringing palate pleasing food to both local clientele and visiting city folk. The premise of the menu is to use produce sourced locally, immersed in flavours that are true and authentic with some reflecting upon Rosa’s cultural heritage in Puglia, Italy. The inexpensive set menu showcased the regional produce which was prepared with imagination and flair to draw upon the flavours and create the most interesting summer dishes. The dishes had a bit of everything, my favourites being the hiramasa kingfish crudo with a Japanese inspired yuzu dressing, the prawn cocktail served in a soft milk bun, and the smooth as silk coconut and white chocolate panna cotta with mango sorbet and macadamia, which had summer and the North Coast written all over it. We truly had the most magnificent night enjoying the kind hospitality of Rosa as much as the food, and have found our new local for future visits to Ballina.

Hiramasa Kingfish Crudo with Yuzu and Bamboo Shoots, Lola Dining, Ballina

We said goodbye to mum, vowing to be back again in ten days time before heading off to the butchery to collect our order of Bangalow Pork. We’d ordered far too much, two and a half kilos of pork belly to be precise, plus another couple of kilos of pork fillet wrapped in prosciutto all packed up in ice and bedded down in the esky for the journey home to Sydney. We broke the journey in the sleepy seaside town of Port Macquarie before heading off again early on Sunday morning.

Arriving home safely my thoughts quickly turned towards preparing for Christmas which was now only six days away. Eeeek! I was tired, however I knew that I just had to get on with it and whilst my significant other headed out to see a movie with our daughter, I decided to spend the afternoon preparing festive treats such as rocky road and nut clusters. I tried a new Rocky Road recipe I’d found on the internet by Tilly Pamment from @tillys_table. The flavours sounded interesting, combining sour cherries, rose water Turkish delight and pistachios with couverture dark callebaut chocolate and Grounded Pleasures marshmallows, handmade in Melbourne. The finished product didn’t disappoint. I do hope a little bit will make it to the table on Christmas Day. You can find the recipe here in my recipe section.

The best Sour Cherry, Turkish Delight and Pistachio Rocky Road

My foray into Christmas preparations ended rather abruptly when I went to retrieve my phone from the charger and quite unexpectedly started to tremble all over which resulted in me spending the night in Royal North Shore Hospital. Well that’s a story for another day. I’d like to sign off by wishing all my readers a very peaceful Christmas. Thank you for following along with my musings about life and mostly food which always seems to feature prominently in my writings. I look forward to welcoming you back sometime in 2022.

Until then, stay safe and well, and may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.


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