Foraging and seaside feasting with Mic Giuliani in Tassie’s south.
We meet on a blue-sky morning at Dodges Ferry. As Mic Giuliani leads us to a grassy patch between two homes, I look at the foraging basket hooked over his elbow and up to his enthusiastic smile. I look back at the empty grassy paddock. It’s my first day out foraging and for the life of me, I can’t see past the inedible emptiness. There’s something in his stride though, that draws us all into obedient line.
We become Mic’s students. He’s best known as the familiar face at Hobart’s Farm Gate Market, sharing generations of Italian secrets through his Sirocco South handmade pasta. His love of food is palpable, but his real passion is plucking it straight from the source.
“Follow me,” he enthuses, as we meander along what feels like a wallaby’s well-worn path. The neighbourhood sounds begin to fade as we journey into a wild food tour in Mic’s coastal backyard. Having lived at nearby Carlton, about 45 minutes from Hobart for more than a decade, he knows the patch intimately.
He takes no more than six on his foraging ventures, because he wants the experience to be intimate and equally, there’s a need to tread lightly across these grasses and shores. It begins to quickly feel like a secret mission as he details what we might find; swiftly holding up a dandelion and explaining its edible and medicinal wonders. Gone are my childhood beliefs that they’re reserved only for wishes.
I think back to living with an American a couple of years back, who had come to work in one of Hobart’s finest restaurant kitchens. She waved goodbye one sunny morning and returned with her bicycle basket brimming with foraged fare. It was then I realised that foraging had become rather fashionable. But as I stood on Mumirmina country with Mic, I was reminded that the indigenous people were many thousands of years ahead of the trend.
“We’re not doing anything new here,” says Mic. “We’re simply returning to ancestral roots. For me, I feel privileged to have grown up foraging for wild asparagus, just like my mother and her mother. It’s precisely what we’ll be looking for today.”
Once he’s shown us a couple of wild asparagus, a fellow forager becomes particularly adept at shoot spotting. From a group standstill, she darts like someone who’s just spotted a cash note in the grass. With childlike excitement, she scans for the next find, slipping it into the basket. Mic’s enthusiasm is infectious.
As is custom when we find something new, Mic hands me a sample of what I think looks like the top of supermarket-variety celery. I take a nibble and it even tastes like celery, but indeed it’s Lacy sea parsley. It’s another flavourful surprise like the petite flowers he drops into our hands that taste of leatherwood honey.
We stand beneath pines where Mic talks of the mushroom goodness that he harvests come Autumn and we pass around the shores of Blue Lagoon. Along the way, we collect the salty delights that are marsh samphire and some buck’s horn plantain for our salad. As we step out into the sunshine of Frederick Henry Bay with sand underfoot, the basket is now suitably overflowing with our bounty. But it’s what we find up a few wooden steps that brings us all to a halt. There before us is a Michelle Crawford-styled (think Gourmet Farmer level amazing) outdoor dining scene complete with outdoor chef busy at the grill. Mic has spared nothing – not even the kitchen sink.
We are shown to our seats and swiftly poured a 2012 Cuvee Traditionelle sparkling by Rafe Nottage of Bream Creek Wines. It feels like some sort of foraging fantasy where fairies appear to fill your glass and whip up a feast from all that you’ve gathered through the morning. It’s seaside bliss as our wild asparagus is barbecued by one of the attentive crew and plump Pacific oysters arrive, some topped with butter fermented asparagus.
There is no doubt, the courses taste better outside. The exquisite flavours feel heightened as the sea breeze swirls between our conversations and the canopy shades us from a warm Hobart sun. Our neatly printed menus outline items that we didn’t source ourselves (ie. no, we didn’t forage for tender octopus down Port Arthur way, but we did find its wild parsley garnish), most of which are found within thirty kilometres from our airy dining room.
We tuck into the lamb breast served with wild cabbage shoots and a salsa verde created with buck’s horn plantain and bower spinach. Another forager and former chef, who lives at nearby Lewisham, gives a nod of delicious approval. Even our dessert is infused with nearby fennel pollen flavours. It tops off one sweet day out with Mic.
What sets the Sirocco South foraging experience apart though, is that no two days with Mic are alike as Tassie shifts through the seasons. He never knows what the land may bear. In summer, the former diving instructor may take you along the dunes and shallows, seeking out round leafed pig face, dune spinach, mussels and oysters.
What’s next to get excited about though is upcoming autumn, with an enticing forage centered around wild mushroom and game. Think dining deep in a pine forest by candlelight. With only a few seats round the table, hop on www.siroccosouth.com.au early to secure you possie.
2020 FORAGING TOUR DATES
Your launch pad for exploring Tasmania like a local.