Barossa's Table: When Sarah met Maggie Beer...

4/05/2011 10:28:00 PM

So Sarah, you met Maggie Beer?

Thus starts almost every conversation I've had with my friends since returning from my Barossa trip.

Was she nice?
Did she look the same as on TV?
Did she say 'verjuice'?

Yes, yes and yes!

I arrived at the Maggie Beer farm shop early on a Tuesday morning, not quite sure what to expect.  I stood around awkwardly for a moment, looking at the shelves, and then, in a flurry of movement and energy, Maggie was there.  After introducing herself, she whisked me away to her office for a coffee, all the while telling her staff about my blog (yes, Maggie read my little old blog!) and my entry for the Barossa's Table competition. I was totally blushing!  Despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm actually quite unaccustomed to talking about myself!  

This is Sarah... she made a wonderful German meal and won a competition to come visit us... she used one of Sas's chickens... and made a lovely deutsche Küche as well...

Then, she turned to me, looked me square in the eye and said: 

Now, you overcooked the chicken.

Eep!  I totally wanted to sink into the floor.  Until I realised she was just repeating what I wrote in my post!

... but it didn't go dry... and that's because Saskia's chickens are so good!


Maggie was so incredibly lovely, very natural and warm.  She has an amazing memory as well, remembering a zillion little details from my blog.  She actually asked heaps of questions about me: about my blogging, my connection with food, my family, "where on earth did you buy gooseberries, and were they red or green?".  She was so sweet and seemed genuinely interested.  

Of course, I managed to get a few questions in too!  She once had her own mortgage brokerage company, and ran that full time whilst running the (now-defunct) Pheasant Farm restaurant.  She told me that she even used to take mortgage customer calls while cooking dishes for the busy service - all à la minute and mainly by herself, as she's a bit of a perfectionist.  Amazing.

I was amazed by the amount of energy she has - first thing in the morning and she was chatting away like we were old friends.  She's got 40 years on me, and it usually takes me a coffee and a good hour of "quiet e-mail checking" before I'm in any state to receive company.  At 66 years of age, she says she has no plans to retire, and indeed, why would she?

I must admit, although we had a lovely time, I felt a little guilty chatting with her - she actually pushed back a big all-day meeting she was having with her entire business team, just to have coffee with me.  (Sorry guys!)  Hehe, I suppose if you're Maggie Beer, and your business is Maggie Beer, then you get to call the shots!

After about an hour or so, she took me over to the display kitchen - yes, where The Cook and the Chef was filmed, (and where you can see cooking demonstrations if you visit the Farm Shop yourself!)

She showed me some amazing rare root vegetables... 

...and then left me in the capable hands of Chris Wotton, her head product developer and recipe tester.  He was preparing dinner for the aforementioned business associates who were meeting with Maggie that day.  Lucky!
Chris Wotton and I
Chris made some mushrooms, cooked in loads of butter and finished with verjuice (natch), and tunnel-boned a lamb leg that he was going to roast for those lucky business associates.
While this was going on, I checked out the lovely space, and snapped some pictures:
Love the old-fashioned scales, the jars of fruit and the tea set!

This shelf is a food-stylist's dream!

Let's take a closer look at some of the pretty items!

Woah... check out the drawer of (natural) food colourings and flavourings. WANT!

He also gave us some Maggie Beer ice-cream to try - strawberries and cream; and burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel.  They were so delicious and creamy.  Strawberry is usually my favourite flavour (ever), but I really loved the grown-up, not-too-sweet flavour of the burnt fig!

Chris' job seems really interesting: developing and testing new products, from inception right through to distribution.  There are so many factors to consider, and not every idea makes it to production.  They only use natural ingredients, (a quick look at the ingredients list on the strawberries and cream ice-cream reveals that it's coloured pink with beetroot juice!)  Any products created have to be natural, consistent in quality, and have a reliable supply to all the retail shops across Australia - what a challenge! 

I then made my way over to The Farm: Barossa Function Centre (located on the same property as The Farm Shop), to get busy in the kitchen with Saskia Beer!  Saskia is Maggie's daughter - she produces the fantastic Barossa chooks and prosciutto that I used in my Barossa's Table Entry, has killer red hair and wears high heels in the kitchen. Respect.  

Sas and her team were preparing a goose and stuffing for the staff lunch (more lucky workers!), and I got the fun job of chopping an onion, and plucking the goose.

Saskia said they were all "really impressed" by my blog (yay!), and we had a chat about my trip so far.

Me: We went to Schulz butchers yesterday to look at the smokehouse...
Saskia: Yeah Germans... we smoke the shit out of things.

I told you she was awesome!

Let's have a look at the goose.  How beautiful is it?

She raises the geese on the farm, and are all corn fed (like her Barossa chook).  They're not commercialised (yet?), which is a shame because it looked super awesome!  The only place I've found geese here in Melbourne is at John Cesters in Prahran Market, but the last couple I got were dry, boney and disappointing.  Not plump and gorgeous like Saskia's one!  So - anyone know where I can buy good quality goose?  Hehe, if Saskia ever commercialises the geese and sells them in Melbourne, I'll totally be her first customer!

Here is the stuffing they were making, full of chicken livers.  Sas said the livers had slight cirrhosis, making them incredibly rich and decadent, like chicken foie gras.

Some gorgeous Berkshire pork... it's bred by a passionate old couple who nearly went out of business until demand for quality pork saved their farm.  It's a very small production, only do 2-30 sows a year.  Beautiful!

Geese takes ages to roast, so unfortunately I didn't get to try any, but Saskia had generously made up a pack of goodies for me to take home!

The pack included:

- free range Berkshire pork rillette; 
- country-style pork terrine; 
- free-range chicken, verjuice, herb and citrus terrine; 
- a spicy smoked sausage; 
- a smoked chicken breast; 
- Black Pig sugar-cured middle bacon; and...  
- some Black Pig proscuitto ("a product you're already familiar with")


Just before that photo was taken, the goods in the box were arranged in a slightly more, shall we say, suggestive manner.  Good thing we spotted that and changed it before the pic!

I then had lunch with the lovely Paige and Jaci from Tourism Barossa (hi guys!) in the Farm Shop.

They do a range of light, picnic-y meals, featuring Maggie's produce.  It's such a lovely spot for lunch!

Porcini Mushroom & Verjuice Pate Picnic Basket - Porcini Mushroom and Verjuice Pate with gruth cheese, freekah salad and wood oven bread - $15.00
Here's what the mushroom pâté looks like on the inside:
So creamy!

Homemade Pheasant Terrine - Pheasant and porcini mushroom terrine wrapped in sour cream pastry with salad greens, Vino Cotto vinaigrette and Maggie's Cabernet Sauce - $18.00 

Chicken Rillette - Free-range Chicken Rillette with salad greens, and wood-oven bread - $15.00

The Pheasant Farm

Maggie Beer's Farm Shop on Urbanspoon

Sarah visited Maggie BeerThe Farm Barossa Function Centre and enjoyed lunch at the Farm Shop as a guest of Tourism Barossa, as part of the prize for winning the Barossa's Table competition, with big thanks to Maggie Beer, Saskia Beer and Chris Wotton for being totally awesome!

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  1. This all sounds so great, I can't believe you met Maggie Beer!

  2. That first photo is GOLD. I'm thrilled to read that Maggie was as warm with you in person as she appears on TV.

  3. Very Jealous!!!!!

  4. Oh I love Maggie Beer! I so want to go to the Barossa mainly to go to her kitchen.

  5. That is super awesome and how cool to cook in the kitchen. LUCKY YOU!

  6. Awesome!What a great read on this Sunday at home. Love Maggie, one of my all time favs on TV overall. I nearly got carried away buying her produce. Love the relish range.

    Lucky you! Best buddies hehe

  7. That is SO COOL! Love that first photo of you and Maggie - squee! You both look gorgeous :D What a fantastic day you had.

  8. Oh! Also wanted to mention that fantastic shelf with all the plates and crockery on it! That is such a good idea, I want something similar now. :)

  9. How amazing! Lucky you, but well deserved I'm sure :) I check your old HTE blog now and then, just to see how the dishes are supposed to look and what you thought of them lol.

  10. Sarah, congratulations to you! What a fab prize:) Maggie's enthusiasm for life in general and especially great produce and food is infectious - I am sure she could convert die-hard junk food addicts! I visited the farm shop and enjoyed it very much - I kept going back for 'just one more sample' of each of the pates! lol I would have hyperventilated if Maggie had been there!

  11. How cool is that to meet Maggie. Great photo with Maggie too.



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.