There’s not many things in life that make me happier than cheese and dairy. My version of a perfect dinner is a home picnic with a bevy of cheeses and crackers (and wine of course!): Which is why I was delighted when I was invited to the Australian Grand Dairy Awards in Melbourne this month.
The Australian Grand Dairy Awards (AGDAs) began in 1999 to recognise and reward excellence and innovation in Australian dairy produce. More than 300 of Australia’s top dairy products – from milk, butter and cream to ice cream and cheese – were put through a rigorous judging process, assessed by 24 expert judges. Now in its 17th year, the awards are now recognised as Australia’s most prestigious dairy awards, and are the highest accolade for Australian dairy producers. This year 19 dairy producers were crowned at the awards, and two were awarded the highly esteemed Grand Champion award. Bulla Crème Fraiche was awarded the Grand Champion Dairy award while Heidi Farm Gruyere won the Grand Champion cheese award.
Hidden next to Federation Square’s car park, the Australian Grand Dairy Awards were held at Pop Up Patch, a picturesque secret garden with breathtaking views over Melbourne’s CBD.
With Alice Zavlavsky (Alice in Frames) as the host for the evening, we knew we were in for a good time and some cheesy laughs. Guests were guided through a series of different stations in the garden which showcased the award-winning produce in all its glory. Alice describes the AGDA’s “like the Oscars but more delicious.”and I would certainly have to agree.
We were lucky enough to sample a delicious range of the award-winning produce, including sumptuous tartlets showcasing Floridia Ricotta, Paradise Beach Purveyors Smoked Trout and Chives Dip and the most decadent cheese toasties I have ever seeen from Maker and Monger (Prahran Market). The makers were on hand to talk about their produce and offer some unique insights into the dairy industry in Australia.
Jake Kellie (2015 Age Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year) was on deck, creating a delicious Harvey Bay Fresh Milk mousse with honeycomb, viola and sour berries. It was so delicious, I had two!
It was hard to move away from the main cheese station, which was chock full of delicious cheeses. From the velvety smooth Meredith Dairy Chevre to the Flinders Estate Ash Brie, fellow cheese fans were in for a treat. The Green Valley Dairy Yoghurt Cheese Balls in Chilli Oil also provided to be a crowd favourite – silky and smooth with a delicious chilli hit. Sweet tooths didn’t miss out on the festivities, with a big plate of decadent beetroot macarons on display filled with fresh Meredith’s goat chevre and beetroot jelly.
The King Island Dairy Black Label Triple Cream Blue was impossible to say no to and beautifully paired with Nant whisky and cider. While a huge hunk of award-winning Heidi Farm Gruyere had the crowd ohhing in cheesy joy.
To make the event even sweeter, we finished with Dooley’s Ice Cream and the most beautifully decorated dessert station. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dooley’s Ice Cream on a trip to Apollo Bay recently. The ice cream shop, run by Dooley Milner and his daughter Alyciandra, was awarded the esteemed 2016 Australian Grand Dairy Champion Award for its Premium Chocolate ice cream. And it couldn’t be more deserved: The ice cream is delicious, and warrants a trip to Apollo Bay alone. Guests could choose from ice cream, Ruby & Roy’s Yoghurt Divine Vanilla Bean as well as Cow and the Moon Pannacotta with Strawberry and Balsamic Ripple Gelato.
Let’s just say, I may have overdosed on all of the above, and all the toppings!
The AGDA’s were a wonderful event, and gave me a unique insight into the dairy industry in Australia, proving that it is really on the world stage when it comes to dairy. I can’t wait to follow the awards in upcoming years and support more local Australian producers in the future. I certainly came away with a full heart, and even a fuller belly!
For full details of the winners of the Australian Grand Dairy Awards, visit the Legendairy website.
Thank you to Keep Left PR for inviting me to this event.