From cheese to wine to gourmet goodies, the Hunter is home to many first-class food producers. Delis are a perfect way to sample the best of the region and beyond, whether you're restocking your fridge, putting together a platter or planning a picnic. Here are five Hunter artisan delis well worth a visit.
The Essential Ingredient
Frustrated at having to go to Sydney to source products featured in magazines and cookbooks, Leonie Young established The Essential Ingredient in 2005.
"At that time we were one of the very few food businesses in Newcastle that specialised in quality ingredients," Young says of the store, which includes a deli, cheese counter, retail section and a cooking school.
The store's extensive range includes premium local, national and international food and kitchenware. They also supply ingredients to restaurants.
"Our offer extends from really specialised ingredients, like molecular gastronomy chemicals to the best balsamic vinegars, to gold leaf and couverture [gourmet chocolate] to amazing cheese with all the accoutrements, to bread and eggs."
"We have been in business for 14 years and still love what we do, every day. We are always trying to find things to keep us, and our customers excited," Young says.
Their cooking school can cater for groups, workplaces and families. "It sets our business apart and allows us to engage with customers and do what we do well - inspiring better cooking," she says.
Junction Fair Shopping Centre, 200 Union Street, The Junction.
Pork Ewe Deli
Pork Ewe has been serving up delicious imported and local cheeses, charcuterie and groceries to Novocastrians since 2013.
Owner Samantha Glover is a passionate foodie whose desire to connect with people who love to cook, eat and entertain led her to take over the European-style deli in 2017. The unique cooking classes are a prime example: recent lessons including how to cook Lebanese street food and make haloumi, chorizo and salami.
"We love to spend time with our customers helping them to discover the amazing produce we range, so they can create delicious feasts," Glover says. "We pride ourselves on giving personal, good old-fashioned service, always with a little quirky tongue in cheek. We are called Pork Ewe after all."
Pork Ewe stocks many small, artisan Australian producers. This year, they launched a range of free tasting events where customers can meet local producers and taste their food.
144 Maitland Rd, Mayfield.
Federico Aitoro and Nina Hughes opened their Italian deli-cafe Fredeli in Warners Bay in April 2016.
Roman-born Aitoro grew up around family on a small farm with home-grown produce, which shaped his love of food and wine. He moved to Australia in 2012.
"Fredeli offers traditional Italian food and the delicatessen has local and imported products," he says.
"We work with local farmers for seasonal produce and the lunch special changes weekly, which can be paired with Italian beer or wine."
Tasty panini, Italian coffee, biscotti and cakes, as well as charcuterie boards and takeaway platters are available.
Fredeli also offers cooking classes - think classics like risotto, gnocchi and ravioli - and Italian language classes with a foodie edge.
Shop 2/472 The Esplanade, Warners Bay.
SMELLY CHEESE SHOP
Founded by Tony Drice and Steven Cooper, the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop has been operating in the Hunter since 2004.
The Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop has two businesses in Pokolbin. The Smelly Deli in Pokolbin Village is the place to stock up on deli goodies. While The Hall of Food, at Roche Estate, also operates a kitchen serving up an array of tasty food, including Smelly's popular cheesecake and homemade Italian gelato.
Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop provides the finest local, Australian and imported artisan cheeses, gourmet delights, and charcuterie, including its own Smelly product range. "Cheese, cheese and more cheese is our specialty," Drice says.
The shop also offers cheese and olive tastings, catering and celebration towers.
The Smelly Deli, Shop 3, Pokolbin Village, 2188 Broke Road, Pokolbin; The Hall of Food, Roche Estate, 2144 Broke Road, Pokolbin.
Two Fat Blokes
Two Fat Blokes (aka Jan Molenaar and Peter Firth) launched their gourmet food and wine tours business in 2008. The Two Fat Blokes Kitchen and Deli followed in 2013.
Firth has retired, while Molenaar and his family continue to operate the business. The philosophy: "Two Fat Blokes loves good food, great wines and the joy of sharing it with others".
Cheese, smallgoods, condiments, oils, chocolates and picnic hampers are available through the deli. "For those who want to get out among the vines, Two Fat Blokes Kitchen and Deli provide many different gourmet picnic and antipasto packs," Molenaar says.
"Our kitchen offers breakfast and lunch five days a week. We pair this with live music on select weekends for the total Hunter Valley relaxed dining experience."
From November 21, the business is moving temporarily to Harkman Wines, 266 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin.
Newcastle City Farmers Market (most Sundays, Newcastle Showground), Lake Macquarie City Farmers Market (second and fourth Saturday of month, Speers Point Park) and Newcastle Food and Flower Markets (Thursday-Saturday, Sandgate).
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