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Alla’s ambitions

Alla Wolf-Tasker has helped shape the face of regional dining in Australia. She speaks to BeanScene about establishing a culinary destination and making coffee fashionable.

 

For many, coffee making is a morning ritual and habitual enjoyment. But for Alla Wolf-Tasker, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of acclaimed restaurant Lake House, watching her mother make coffee as an after-dinner ritual was a magical ceremonial task.

“My mother had a much-treasured china coffee set which included a hand-painted tall pot and eight beautiful tiny demitasse cups and saucers. It was brought out for special occasions,” she says. “A moka pot filled with coffee, freshly ground in our hand-cranked ancient grinder, was put on the stove. The magic bubbling commenced soon after, as did the mysterious aromas that filled the air. When complete, the contents of the moka pot were transferred to the heated china coffee pot.”

The serving of the coffee was just as memorable, often served with a small glass of liqueur and chocolates.

Eventually, Alla says the day came when an electric filter pot replaced her family’s faithful moka pot

 

“It seemed more fashionable to serve coffee direct from the very new and modern-looking Pyrex heat-resistant jug. However, those wonderous aromas were never quite as apparent ever again. Even my mother remarked on how awful the coffee was when it sat and stewed for a while,” she says.

 

 

The next phase in Alla’s family’s coffee making evolution was instant coffee, which somehow “snuck” into the house. First it was Nescafé, then Moccona. Nowadays there’s no such evidence of instant coffee in Alla’s Daylesford home in country Victoria.

A E61 Faema “Legend” coffee machine, first released in 1961, is plumbed into Alla’s kitchen bench and makes a “mean coffee”. But to start the day, Alla enjoys a flat white after her morning walk at either Wombat Hill House café or the Lake House.

Alla admits she’s a sucker for a really good flaky croissant to accompany her morning caffeine hit.

 

“That milky coffee and croissant ritual was first embedded in my DNA in France as a very young woman. I do compensate for this bit of wickedness by alternating with our house-made muesli and yoghurt,” she says.

Following her morning coffee hit Alla indulges in two or three espresso shots throughout the day, sometimes even a macchiato. Any more than that and her sleep tends to suffer.

Alla has travelled the world in pursuit of the best food experiences. Consequentially, coffee bars have contribute to those memories. Outside of her beloved Australia, Alla says nothing can compare to Italy’s love for quick coffee service and delicious espresso.

“The Italians remain the masters. It’s hard to get a bad coffee anywhere in that country,” she says. “I love that wonderful morning rush in any of their great cities – standing at the bar in a little baccaro for a beautiful double shot with the hum of conversation all around. I’ve done that in Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, and many of the minor cities. You just can’t beat that buzz and that sense of both expectation and appreciation of a really beautiful coffee.”

Alla has watched the rise of the café evolution around the globe. To some they are merely places to refuel, to others they are about dedicated coffee appreciation, and for Alla, they spell relaxation.

“Unlike restaurants [going to a café] is never about research. It’s often about catching up with someone – work colleagues or friends. I love that cafés have become such a great part of our landscape,” she says.

 

In fact, Wombat Hill House café is part of Alla’s own landscape, situated high on an ancient volcano overlooking the village of Daylesford. It utilises the same well-sourced produce as Lake House restaurant, and prides itself on serving fresh ST ALi coffee.

 

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