Though I’ve now been living in Sydney for over three years, the truth of the matter is that my best girl friends are my high school friends, and they still live in Melbourne. I don’t regret moving cities – I enjoy the job that I moved for, the relationship that developed, and the lifestyle that I live here. But I still know that one day, I’ll move back to Melbourne for good.
When it came time to start considering a hens party for my upcoming wedding, I knew that I wanted two things – 1) a low-key relaxing celebration without strippers or penis straws and 2) for it be in Melbourne. With that in mind, I chose to have a quiet weekend on the Mornington Peninsula with a handful of my closest high school girlfriends. Walks on the beach, cooking at home, going to a few attractions, playing board games, having wines and dips and cheeses…it was all about the relaxing pampering.
One of the few places that we visited on the weekend was Main Ridge Dairy. It’s a goat farm and cheese factory located in Main Ridge on the Mornington Peninsula, in an area teeming with wineries and other working farms.
When you enter the modern building, the first thing you see is a big refrigerated cabinet displaying all the various goats cheeses made on site. Mmm, cheese…
Tucked away in a corner are a few shelves of goods that you can buy. From cheese platters and cheese knives, to little knitted goat toys and local jams and produce, it’s a cute area to poke around in while you decide what to order. I was sorely tempted to buy some cute locally made crockery, but then realised I would have difficulties bringing it back to Sydney in my hand luggage so sadly put it back on the shelf.
Amongst the few of us, we ordered a variety of hot drinks – and one brave friend just ordered a glass of goat milk which I tried and found incredibly strong-tasting. “It tastes like barbecued lamb chops!” I declared, and a few others agreed with me. I much preferred my fancy hot chocolate from the Grounded Pleasures range, which was amazingly thick, full and creamy.
We ordered the Full Goat Platter to share. Recommended for 2-8 people, we definitely struggled to finish it with five people, so I don’t see how two people could finish it! My pick of the bunch is probably the chevre and caprincilla for sheer more-ishness that wasn’t too strong in flavour. I also liked the yoghurt-like cashmere which came with some berry coulis – I could definitely see myself having more of that!
We sat around for a few hours eating the platter and watching the cute little baby goats run around their paddock and climb all over each other, playing “King of the Mountain”. I could quite happily have spent the whole afternoon there simply watching the kids and eating goat’s cheese. In fact, I think I’ll take my dad to Main Ridge Dairy next time I’m in Melbourne.
Our next visit was to Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, just down the road from Main Ridge Dairy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite strawberry-picking season when we were there (we were about a month early!), but there was still plenty to see, do and eat!
A few of the girls tried the liquor tasting available in one corner of Sunny Ridge’s shop. I abstained as I’ve been a teetotaler since February, but the reports were definitely favourable! One friend walked away with a few bottles of the strawberry port and the cherry port which she said was surprisingly not as sickly sweet as anticipated.
There was plenty of local produce to go through as well, with one of my favourite displays being this endless shelf of mini-jams made from the fruits of Sunny Ridge’s own fields.
Despite all the other attractions available, the highlight of Sunny Ridge is their dessert cafe which takes advantage of the fresh berries and fruits that they produce, as well as the other locally-sourced gourmet products. Given that we had only eaten goats cheese for lunch that day, we decided to order a dessert each…what a hardship!
My choice of the strawberry coconut rough (a daily special) was an amazing mix of fresh locally made coconut ice-cream, fresh strawberries, and crunchy chocolate-coated meringues. It was a remarkable treat, and the surprising thing is that it didn’t even feel that bad for me, as the fruit and ice-cream was so fresh and light.
One friend ordered the strawberry rocky road, which came with a few scoops of different ice-creams, as well as white chocolate coated freeze-dried strawberries – a house specialty.
The panna cotta was a popular choice as well, with a creamy and smooth texture and subtle vanilla bean flavour that went well with the strong berry coulis and fresh berries.
The pancake was a bit more disappointing and more geared towards the children visiting the cafe. The sprinkled hundreds and thousands didn’t add much to the dish!
A much healthier friend chose a yoghurt and berry parfait as she’s not much of a fan of sweets…and in fact, she doesn’t even eat chocolate! (Crazy, I know!) This is a great lighter choice if you happen to visit earlier in the day and aren’t quite ready for something sweet.
While our experience at Sunny Ridge wasn’t quite as good as our visit to Main Ridge Dairy (the service isn’t as good, and it’s a little older), I imagine that I’ll probably be back – next time in strawberry picking season!