Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn – The Design Files | Australia's most popular design blog. | Daily life
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    Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn – The Design Files | Australia's most popular design blog.

    My wife Séverine Demanet and I live in the small town of Lachlan in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley (just 45 minutes from Hobart), having moved here from Sydney in 2007. After watching way too much River Cottage UK, we decided a move to the country was what we wanted!

    I grew up in the country (in the small town of Coleambally, NSW before moving to Sydney in 1997 to finish my chef apprenticeship at Tetsuya’s) and had a great childhood; we decided this would be a great experience for our own children, and there was also the attraction of growing our own food.

    I’d first visited Tasmania with Gourmet Traveller and fell in love with the state – I meet all types of people who become enchanted by its spell. It has a very unique feel about it that puts people at ease; laid-back and full of natural beauty, as well as having an edge of sophistication with a vibrant food and art scene (centred around MONA, which brings visitors from all around the world).

    The Derwent Valley is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. It is one of the oldest settlements in Tasmania, so it has a lot of historical buildings as well as old English hedgerows and lines of poplars as remnants of the Hop industry that thrived. One of its most beautiful features is the Derwent River that snakes its way from the highlands down to the estuary in Hobart.

    This time of year, It’s cold, frosty and foggy, and this is what makes it incredibly beautiful! We get dustings of snow on the mountain tops and, provided you rug up, it can be one of the most unique and invigorating times to visit – think red wine and open fires. By spring, the countryside’s flora awakens and puts on a show to behold, with beautiful blossoms and green countryside so vibrant it can hurt your eyes!  In summer, it can be mild compared to the mainland, but is often one of the warmer parts of Tasmania, and everyone gets out to enjoy the weather and the Derwent river for fishing, swimming and picnics. Then there’s a true autumn here thanks to the established European trees, as well as Tasmania’s own native deciduous fagus (deciduous beech) in nearby Mount Field National Park to celebrate.

    Our Derwent Valley tour guide, Rodney Dunn, pictured at The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School and Farm – just look at that light! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The school’s apt home is a 19th Century renovated schoolhouse in Lachlan. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Our tour guide, Rodney Dunn at his farm-to-table business, The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School and Farm. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Set on five acres, The Agrarian Kitchen grows and uses heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables in its cooking classes, as well as sourcing ingredients from local farmers, fishermen, gardeners and artisanal producers. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    We visited the Derwent Valley on a fresh, foggy morning. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The best truffle scout around. ‘The largest problem with truffles is the use of truffle oil, which has nothing to do with a real truffle. It’s like saying I don’t like vanilla when imitation vanilla essence is all you have ever tried,’ explains Rodney. ‘Truffles are easy to use and cook with once you understand how.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Although Australia is the fourth largest global producer of black truffles, Rodney finds that another hinderance is the cost (around $1,000-$2,000 per kilo).  ‘All people ever need to use in a dish for six is around 10 to 20 grams, so a small to medium truffle would give you enough for a dinner party of three to four courses.’ he adds. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Fresh eggs from the chook shed. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Rodney preparing the pasta in the converted classroom kitchen. Designed for communal cooking, the space features high performance AEGappliances. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    From the Cooking with Truffles Masterclass. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    ‘Our classes are never more than 10 people to make sure everyone gets the appropriate attention from the teacher and we ensure that everything learned can be replicated at home,’ tells Rodney. ‘All the AEG cooking equipment we use is for domestic kitchens’. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Dining together after a big day of gathering and cooking is a highlight! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The Derwent River near New Norfolk – our next stop! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    New Norfolk is the antique capital of Tasmania and Rodney rates The Drill Hall Emporium as one of the best antique stores in the country. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The Drill Hall Emporium is run by Sue James, and her daughters Donna and Tammy. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Classes are led by Rodney, as well as a supporting cast of Tasmanian cooks and producers. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Just around the corner is The Flywheel Store. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Here, Rachel James creates gorgeous business cards and stationery on the letterpress printing press. ‘There’s also a beautiful range of antique office equipment and paper too,’ tells Rodney. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    ‘This time of year, It’s cold, frosty and foggy and this is what makes it incredibly beautiful!’ says Rodney. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Back in Hobart, Rodney also recommends MACq01: the city’s newest luxury, storytelling hotel. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery and Store is housed in the gorgeous Bronte Building (1806) in the Willow Court Precinct, New Norfolk.


    Inside The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery and Store. ‘We have many local gardeners drop in excess produce from their home gardens for us to use,’ explains Rodney. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The buildings of the Willow Court Precinct are slowly being restored with the aim that other sympathetic businesses will one day occupy the spaces. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    ‘The Derwent Valley is one of the oldest settlements in Tasmania, and one of its most beautiful features is the Derwent River that snakes its way from the highlands down to the estuary in Hobart,’ explains Rodney. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    The Stanton Bed and Breakfast located nearby The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School and Farm. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    ‘It’s the best of country hospitality!’ says Rodney of the renovated Georgian homestead accommodation. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    ‘This time of year can be one of the most unique and invigorating times to visit – think red wine and open fires!’ welcomes Rodney. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


    Located on Macquarie Wharf, the hotel is really central, and its boat shed replica building is amazing. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

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