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FOOD & DRINK
It seems almost inconceivable that in the early 1980s Australian food was bland and very much of the traditional English `meat and two veg' school of cooking: sweet and sour pork or a prawn cocktail were considered the height of culinary sophistication. All this has changed dramatically, largely due to Asian, Middle Eastern and European immigrants introducing their ingredients and styles of cooking.
A World of FoodAustralian cuisine is now taking the world by storm - the famous chef Robert Carrier declared on a visit in 1996 that Australian food was the most exciting available, and that it was about to take over the world. Much of this acclaim is due to the development and refinement of `Modern Australian' cuisine - a form of cooking that has evolved from the use of excellent fresh produce, the fusion of styles and ingredients (anything from Thai to Italian in one dish), and stylish presentation.
An important component of Australia's inventive cuisine is the superb quality and variety of local produce, from tropical fruits like mangoes to Tasmania's wonderful cheeses and the freshest herbs. The quality of meat is very high, and the variety of seafood will astonish many northern hemisphere visitors: enormous prawns, oysters, crabs, lobsters and delicious tropical fish such as barramundi. Australia also offers cuisines from all over the world, with Thai, Japanese and other Asian restaurants being particularly popular. You will find everything from Italian and Greek to Lebanese and African cuisines, and one of the greatest joys in this fine climate is eating alfresco, often with a marvellous sea view.
Wine, Beer and SpiritsWine has been produced in Australia since the late 1830s, and the country's reds and whites are now deservedly world famous. All of the states have some involvement in the industry, but South Australia's Barossa Valley and Coonawarra region, the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, and the Margaret River area of Western Australia are some of the most famous.
Red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot, while Chardonnay, Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho are popular whites. There are many hundreds of different labels to choose from, and the best way to discover what you like is to try as many as possible! Ultimately, it all comes down to taste, but it's hard to go wrong with labels like Wolf Blass, Rosemount Estate, Penfolds, Houghtons and Henschke. Australian beers are now known throughout the world, and there is a huge range to choose from. In addition to Fosters, Tooheys, VB (Victoria Bitter), Reschs, Cascade, Carlton, Swan and XXXX (Fourex) there are popular regional brands, and aficionados will enjoy specialist beers like Hahn, Coopers, Redback and the curiously named Dogbolter. Australia is not renowned for its spirits, although reasonably good brandy is produced in South Australia. Sampling Bundaberg rum - universally known as `Bundy' and a delicious by-product of the sugar industry in Queensland - is a must. This fine spirit comes as both underproof (37 per cent) and overproof (a lethal 57.7 per cent), and is usually topped up with cola.