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If Far North Queensland could be identified with an object, it would be a fruit bowl dripping with tropical sweetness. Should you be holidaying summer holidaying up north this year, here are a few new dishes and cocktails to add to the road trip. Savour the sweet and savoury delights one by one. It will add some sweet memories to your trip.
This is a truly local drink. You can get it from Ochre Restaurant, located on the waterfront in Cairns. As colourful as its namesake, the Cassowary Cocktail's rich red comes from the cassowary's favourite food – local Davidson plum, which is blended with Hunter Distillery ginger liqueur, local finger lime and Smirnoff vodka. Wow. Simply wow.
Savour the taste of the native plum a little longer by choosing Ochre Restaurant's Twice Cooked Pork Belly served with Davidson plum jam, Queensland scallops and cauliflower puree. Trifecta!
Nu Nu chef Nick Holloway is pairing tiger prawns fresh from the Gulf of Carpentaria with Mareeba pineapple and persimmons from Tolga. The Tiger Prawn Schnitzel is finished with a spicy Korean ssamjang that brings together the tropical fruit flavours for a bite of summer freshness.
In the city at CC's Alfresco in Bailey, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel, the signature beef steak has been paired with a light salad, ensuring the beef from Crystalbrook Station (west of Cairns) remains the mainstay of the dish while matching the casual, relaxed setting befitting one of those amazing balmy Cairns evenings.
Chef de Cuisine Matthew Larter sources ingredients from within a three-hour drive of the city hotel, adding fresh, seasonal produce for a unique tropical taste. The delicious local food can be paired with a Rusty's Spritz, a bright and bubbly combination of Prosecco, spritz and soda garnished with seasonal fruits straight from Rusty's Market in Cairns.
Chill at Hemingway's Brewery with the newly introduced Canecutter Lager. Its clean, citrus flavours are given a tropical tweak with light passionfruit and watermelon aromas, which pair well with the robust juicy flavour of the brewery's Signature Hero Burger.
Sit back and reflect on the those canecutters the post-World War 2 immigrants who wielded their cane knifes under the sun developing the sugar industry for the tropical north. They too enjoyed summer in the tropics when the harvest had ended, and they could spend their time in the refreshing waterfalls of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef. They had a harder life than you but now you can enjoy the same thrill of the spill down a parched throat.
Mangoes are summer's calling card. Around Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, you can pick the juicy fruit straight from the tree. For the taste of summer in a highball glass, Three Wolves create a Mango Collins using mango puree and their award-winning Wolf Lane Distillery Tropical Gin. The citrus summer gin is distilled across the laneway from the inner city bar, using 13 botanicals including locally sourced ruby grapefruit, mango, finger lime, lavender and mint.
Cassava is another tropical vegetable sourced locally by Simon George & Sons a local fruit and vegetable wholesaler working with restaurants. It's on the menu at the newly opened Oak & Vine, the Oaks Cairns Hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking the Cairns Lagoon.
The cassava fries with chilli Kewpie mayo are especially good when paired with Cane Fire Rum Punch, a mix of watermelon, coconut and mango bitters combined with Bacardi Blanca and Ora and topped with a slice of dehydrated mango.