Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published October 11th 2012
Vegetables can be fun
I don't like Brussels Sprouts, and I'm glad I don't like them, because if I liked them, I'd eat them, and I can't stand the damn things.
I don't dislike all vegetables. I quite like fresh new garden peas. I love potatoes, sweet potato, onions, garlic, tomatoes, I've learned to like celery over the last few years and I'm prepared to tolerate carrots if they don't get above themselves.
But towards most of the green stuff I have a non-agression policy, they don't eat me and I... respect that position.
[ADVERT]So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached dining at the Swan Valley Cafe, specialising as it does, in vegetarian food. I mean I knew they were talented, I have had afternoon tea and cake there many times.
But I've said some harsh things about vegetarians over the years ('Vegetarian is Old English for 'bad hunter'; 'Come and have dinner, I'll slay the fatted cabbage' and the like) and I feared that I might, dare I say it, be bored with the food.
I wondered idly if perhaps they might have a 'carnivore's option' of a juicy steak or tomato sauce (with meatballs).
I didn't stop to think, as I often don't, that if you don't have meat or fish as the main protein, you have to be very clever with spices and herbs to make the food not bland and this takes a high degree of skill.
The food they serve is made from fresh, local and organic ingredients wherever possible. No preservatives or additives of any kind are used and any cheeses are rennet free and obviously all eggs are free range.
Swan Valley cafe's aim is to supply a wide range of healthy foods that fit any dietary requirements - no matter how unusual.
But enough of that - what matters to me, and I hope you, is how it tastes.
We dropped in, the three of us, on one of the Friday nights that the cafe opens to sample the wares. The evening menu offers all the luncheon dishes plus a few specials.
As it happened two friends of ours were dining there by chance so we all joined up which meant I had a very wide range of dishes to sample (one of the lesser-known dangers of dining with a food writer is that they steal food off your plate).
Swan Valley Cafe is licenced with a small but serviceable range of local wines, including the Harris organic Wine range.
We chose a John Kosovich Verdelho ($30) which was light, crisp and with a clean long, slightly acidic finish. Very nice, and entirely suitable for the food.
James and Lesley choose the Mushroom Risotto as a entreé. Risotto is an incredibly difficult dish to get exactly right, even a minute too much or too little cooking can ruin it.
Swan Valley Café's was just perfection, the field mushrooms giving it a rich, slightly woody flavour and richness.
I had a rich Vegetable Soup ($12.50), the 'soup of the day' which had a deep, lightly spiced complexity and came with warm, fresh bread - delicious. Surprisingly delicious, given my vegetable prejudice.
For main course I had the, ahem - 'Shepherdess Pie' ($19.50) - or shepherd's pie without the lamb but with lentils and a small side salad. Now I don't like to point a finger and usually when I eat too much, it's entirely my own greed, but I have to tell you this was Chef's fault that I overate - it was just too good to leave any.
Rich, tasty, flavourful and entirely without meat or meat products, the 'Shepherd-less' pie was just wonderful.
As was James' 'Ploughman's Platter' ($24.90), although no ploughman I ever knew ate so well or so exotically.
Dessert for only Angela was an exceedingly rich, flourless chocolate cake served with whipped cashew nut cream and we all had an outstandingly good coffee.
All the more delightful for being so unexpectedly delicious, our wholefood, vegetarian meal was very reasonably priced (roughly $50 a head including wine) and served speedily in pleasant surroundings at the Swan Valley Cafe.
I urge you to try it, do yourself some good and have some good food while doing so.