A Mt Compass “Cup” of a different kind:

He was nimble enough as a slim, small waiter delivering a tray of coffees and cake, but it was bandy legs which hinted at a former life in the saddle.

And there were other telltale signs too.  Barry Gottfried wore a fancy, expensive cowboy’s belt, which seems incongruous in the setting – serving tables on the terrace of Mt Compass Café where we now sit admiring stunning views over the Nankita Hills.

We have come to Mt Compass at noon to see the only cow race in Australia to discover it is at 6pm tonight! So, we settle for venison pies, coffee and cake at the Café.  Surely the waiter would fit right into the scenario we just left – across the road at the Mt Compass Cow Race on the oval.

Instead that big, buckled belt embossed as it is with bull horns begs the question “Where did you get that fancy belt?’’

“I was a rodeo rider for many years and seven times South Australian bull-riding champion,’’ says Barry, who is clearly proud of his past.

“The Jervois Rodeo gave the belt to me. Three years in a row I won Jervois’s bull ride and the belt was a gift.’’

He has the petite body of a jockey and he reads my thoughts: “We little fellas do better than the big blokes on bulls because we have more control over the top of our  body.

“But you always get bucked off.’’

He says it saddens him rodeos are a dying sport because of high insurance premiums.

“There is one today at Wilmington, but I haven’t mounted a bull for 40 years.’’

In Spain, of course, he would be a celebrity bull fighter, but he reckons rodeos are a forgotten sport in Australia.

“There’s one today at Wilmington, but insurance premiums are too high.’’.

Who was the meanest beast he ever rode? “Red Ned was the meanest beast and a South Australian champion bull,’’ says Barry.

“He didn’t like me one bit.’’

Barry, 71, says he and his younger wife, Erica bought the Mt Compass Café in November last year.

“Erica was a chef at the Middleton Hotel, but with those hours she was never home and it was hard with three teenage children,’’ he says.

“I am their step-father, but they still wanted their mother with them.’’

And as he delivers our venison hamburgers and a venison pie for our friend, he says:

“You won’t find a better venison pie anywhere in the world. She’s a champion cook and only has a few more hours to qualify as a fully trained chef.’’

Nature’s flower bower

Last week I shared how sweet it was to gather olive branches and thistles from the roadside on our wedding anniversary. And here is the result – a free, floral arrangement which lasted a week in our living room.

The agapanthus and the sword-shaped leaves came from our garden, the wheat  was found next to the Currency Creek Community Hall and we clipped the exotic orange from a footpath flower plot in Victor Harbour.


Strathalbyn : fun community day for cyclists and fans.

olivier snaps this exciting dash to the wire between Cameron Meyer (right) and Thomas DeGendt.

We were screaming fans yesterday at Strathalbyn, for theSantos  Tour Down Under stage 4, banging on the barriers as Aussie rider Cameron Meyer outsprinted Thomas DeGendt in a dash to the wire.

The two champions led the spectacular peloton by about 30 seconds racing at about 60kms an hour in a thrilling finish to a hard  day’s work for the 129 riders who rode from Norwood.

As one, the crowds, three deep the length of the course into the town, screamed and cheered their heroes, enjoying the sugar sweet success of a local boy winning  Stage 4.

However, it was the 7000 local riders who had taken part in the Mutual Community Challenge Tour with their thousands of fans lining the course to greet them for a few hours beforehand which turned Strathalbyn into a sporting arena.

The townfolk sold snags and coffee outside Woolworths for the Queensland flood victims and the footpaths were jammed with people. Commentators boomed above us with progress  of the race. Behind the scenes the  picturesque lawns along the Angus River were dotted with people and bakeries and restaurants overflowed with fans.

The Tour Down Under is an extraordinary sporting event because it brings international cycling into small rural towns and Strathalbyn reflects the transformation into such a fun place.  The race has also ignited  a unique cycling sporting culture capable of moving thousands of ordinary people onto  their bike.  We, the fans,  loved it all.

Wonderful Wildlife, Wine and Art on KI

People flock to Kangaroo Island to see the wildlife and landscape, but it only when you stop to meet the locals, that their stories reveal its human face and how 10 per cent of the population are artisans.

We come each year to the island to watch birds and sunsets, try local wines, eat marron and to count the wallabies, who live in the sheoaks in the back yard at American River.

We are always anxious to arrive to settle into the peacefulness of Eastern Cove, but this year we meet the locals to be astonished at the depth of talent here.

Instead of dashing from the ferry to American River, we notice for the first time, a primitive old fisherman’s cottage on the main road at Penneshaw, close to the Information Centre.

It stands stark and boxy on the clifftop, silhouetted against the endless blue sea with an A-frame outside advertising “art for sale’’.

We are lured in through the old open wooden door, into an extraordinarily simple, yet spectacular art space.

Two blokes are sitting on hay bales pushed up against its four walls and one glance reveals that the rough fieldstone walls are hung with exceptional art – Australian landscapes, surreal, contemporary and abstract expressions.

The men introduce themselves as the artists – Bryon Buick and Richard Musgrave-Evans,- and point out their respective artworks.

“We have been here for three weeks now and have done very well,’’ says Bryan Buick, a Kangaroo Island local.

“And on Sunday when we pack up, this little house will become Richard’s studio.’’

I cannot decide what is more of a surprise – the  tiny cottage with its century-old coffered pine ceilings and original paned colonial windows or the diverse art, or the rare treat to find two gifted artists in the same place selling their art.

They tell us they are both professional artists and friends, too, and that they met a few years back while both painting in the Flinders Ranges.

Bryon has his roots in Kangaroo Island, because his great-grandfather, John Buick, a ship builder, was a pioneer who settled American River in 1842.

“That’s my great grandfather, John,’’ says Bryon.

However, Richard is a newcomer to the island, which is now his home and was invited to paint its unspoiled beauty by Bryon. Richard adds how it didn’t take long for the lone artist, painting en plain air on Kangaroo Island for a local girl to show interest, not only in his work, but also in him.  And now he is a permanent resident.

The men have been part of the evolution of Kangaroo Island into a vibrant artistic community.

The talent on this isle of unspoilt wilderness, is as prolific as the wildlife whichdelights tourists who visit South Australia’s largest island.

Quality art galleries at Baudin Beach and Kingscote and in private studios dotted along the roads bear testament through the exquisite local handicraft, jewellery and diverse artworks they sell.

We discovered that the talent on this isle of unspoilt wilderness, is as prolific as the wildlife which delights tourists who visit South Australia’s largest island.


There is something magic about Kangaroo Island which lures unsuspecting people and its raw beauty entices them to stay.

Such as another gifted fellow, French winemaker, Jacques Lurton and we hear of his love affair with  KI over dinner at Reflections, the restaurant of Kangaroo Island Lodge at American River. (It is a finalist in the 2010 Restaurant of the Year regional restaurants awards).

Jacques is the son of a winemaking dynasty in Bordeaux, which has 1500ha under vine. In August 2010, Jacques was cover boy for WBM (Wine Business Magazine) and described as the world’s greatest globetrotting winemaker.

The Jacques Lurton label Domaine de la Marinette, especially his merlot, is renowned in France and he imports to Australia yet another golden drop, Touraine, from the Loire Valley.

Jacques has produced wine in 25 regions in 10 countries and handled 60 vintages.

This is all as a result of his moving on from the family operations in Bordeaux to establish his own interests and a number of vineyards around the world – in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France, Spain, Chile and Australia.

Jacques imports his French wines to Australia, particularly  his  Jacques Lurton Touraine label, an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from his vineyard in the Loire Valley, France.

In Australia, he chose Kangaroo Island to establish his own 11ha vineyard,  Islander Estate Vineyard and label, The Islander in 2000. It was an emerging wine region and considered a risk for such a world player in the wine industry.

Yet, he planted eight grape varieties including Sangiovese, Semillon and Viognier. Seven years later in 2007 Jacques sold his share in the family dynasty to his brother Francois to focus on Kangaroo Island and his own labels in France.

A decade later, in

Augusut 2010, Jacques is chosen as cover man for WBM Wine Business Magazine in which it reports “It is ironical that a Frenchman is probably Kangaroo Island’s most enthusiastic ambassador’’.

And News Limited national wine editor and Advertiser wine expert, Tony Love claims Jacques’ KI wines are “the icon wines of Kangaroo Island’’.

We are indeed in esteemed company as Jacques tells us, over dinner, how he will be extending his stay on at Kangaroo Island this visit for almost 13 weeks to supervise his vineyard and winemaking operations near Parndana.

It is the longest spell staying either in his beachfront home, named  “The Frog House’’ at idyllic Island Beach or on his 300ha farm close to Parndana.

“I admit it isn’t easy here for a number of reasons, including supply of labour at vintage, but I am very pleased with the product,’’ he says.

His label, The Islander, especially Yakka Jack,  is an expensive boutique wine and is available in selected restaurants, but not at Reflections.

Jacques is fluent in his praise of the beauty of the island and the Kangaroo Island lifestyle and the environment. His second property, for instance, is rare habitat.

“It’s in that special environment where there are rare red-tailed black cockatoos,’’ he says.

“I love it here… the freedom… the cool island environment.’’

“Over the next few years I will need to decide exactly where I will be going to stay on a more permanent basis.’’

And while he does, Kangaroo Island continues to tug at his heart strings.

He conceded to WBM in August that Kangaroo Island wines faced identity problems but he had the solution. All the region needed was “to start talking about the beauty of the land, the soils, the sense of place and the human element’’.

“A year ago I was chatting to David Paxton about the difficulty of the wine industry and I told him I am prepared to fight to the death because the day you have found a place like Kangaroo Island is the day you have found peace and happiness and that’s worth fighting for.’’

The King of Cakes

Galette des Rois:

There is something about religious tradition which gladdens the soul and in French culture, the festival of Epiphany when the Three Wise Kings, who visited the Christ Child, is celebrated with a special cake on January 7 each year.

The cake is called  La Galette des Rois and it is celebrated in the same manner of Christmas – with a gathering of the family and inside the cake a bean is inserted and whoever finds it, is king for the day – or Queen. For contemporary French children, mothers insert a small ceramic toy which cannot be swallowed, but the old tradition was to insert a dried fava bean, and to this day whatever is found is still called “la feve’’

The first time I ate a piece of La Galette des Rois, I was in  Brittany, France at the home of our friends, Gerard and Martine Rolland.  They were the happily married couple I wrote about in my book From France With Love and we were staying there as their guests, as we did each year we visited France.

It was a joyous occasion, especially for me, when I found the bean and wore the crown – a gold circle encrusted with coloured glass. ( No party hat as we were remembering the rich wise men who brought precious gold, incense and myrrh to baby Jesus).

The tradition for the Queen (moi) included my picking the King by putting the bean in his glass. Gerard added his own flavour by saying in his household, the queen is kissed by all her subjects – a very pleasant end to a great lunch celebration.

The day is a sweet memory because it was the last time we spent around the dinner table with Gerard. He died of cancer two months later.

So, each year we carry out this tradition, and usually the grand-children are eager-eyed around the table.  It is remarkably simple to make using puff pastry sheets, thawed in the refrigerator.

Cut the pastry sheets into two circles the size of  a dinner plate… then place the puff pastry on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make the frangipane cream for the filling and this recipe makes enough for 2 galettes (often needed to allow a reasonable slice for each guest.)