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Alla Wolf-Tasker AM is the Culinary Director and co-proprietor, of Australia’s much loved and iconic Lake House in Daylesford. Now in its fourth decade, Lake House continues to collect accolades and awards and remains on the significant national “Best Of” listings.

Alla is herself the recipient of a myriad of ‘Contributions to Industry’ awards, has several ‘Living Legend’ awards under her belt and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her work in the hospitality and tourism areas.

Daylesford and Surrounds - A Community Committed to Good Food

Daylesford Macedon Life Magazine (Summer 2020/21)
by Daylesford Macedon Tourism

No matter which direction you’re coming from, it’s the hand-drawn signs and ‘honour boxes’ on the side of our country roads, that offer you clues to one of the biggest preoccupations of the folk in this beautiful region of ours. These may spruik potatoes or other freshly harvested fruit and vegetables, eggs, honey, preserves, compost, and even animal manure. “Local organic horse poo” proclaims one regular sign near a stack of well-filled bags. You stop the car, drop the notes and coins in the honour box and fill your boot. In season there might be punnets of blackberries, chestnuts, mushrooms, bunches of wild daffodils, and fruit windfalls gathered by kids for a bit of pocket money But primarily they signal a property where people are in the business of small scale agriculture of some kind. For an increasing number, it represents the family’s primary source of income as well as a determination and passion to succeed as a producer and grower within a sustainable agriculture model. Regenerative farming is alive and well in our ‘hood.

Good Food means so many different things to different people.  Nowadays with the emphasis on health and our natural immunity that 2020 has brought with it, many are increasingly cautious about the source of their food. It’s a real pleasure to see and it might just be one of the silver linings and a lasting legacy of this difficult time. There’s a laudable desire to reconnect with the source of one’s food and importantly to be involved in the conversation about good nutrition and health for ourselves and our families.

Our own ethos at Lake House has always been to ask “where”, “what”, “who” and “how” about the produce we source and to share the answers with our guests… We now also have the added bonus of our own farm, just down the road. Dairy Flat Farm supplies much of our produce and bakes bread for all our operations. Apart from the opportunity to stay there, guests are regularly offered tours and workshops at the property. It’s gratifying to see interest in this kind of activity on the rise.

Using or buying local offers the likelihood of knowing more about your food. If you are eating out, certainly many of our restaurants and cafés here, quote the source of their produce. If you are staying in self-contained accommodation – head to the local farmers’ markets (there’s at least one somewhere in the region every weekend), buy up the beautiful fresh produce, and take the opportunity to even have a chat with the grower or their family.

The small community-based food market at the old Daylesford Railway Station (every Sunday) is a good case in point. There, (at the very least) you’ll find Adsum Farmhouse; Mt Franklin Organics, Goldfields Cheeses, Two Fold Bake House, Brooklands Free Range farm  (pastured British White beef and Black Berkshire pork), as well as fresh produce, bread, and pastries from our own Dairy Flat Farm.

Take it all back with you, for a feast at your AirBnB with a great bottle of local wine or cider. Perhaps from Captain’s Creek Organics (much more than just wine) or Passing Clouds (catch the tourist train at the Sunday market for an enchanting few minutes ride there) or the Daylesford Cidery. The latter produces some brilliant drops from their orchard of 1800 Organic Somerset cider apple trees – now that’s dedication. And if you’ve ventured in that direction anyway, be sure to stop at Istra for some European small goods – prosciutto, pancetta, salamis, copacolla, and more. They’ll be brilliant with the beautiful sourdough and Ed’s Adsum gherkins you’ve picked up from the market. Be certain to look out for the Honest Egg Co.’s beautiful eggs from local pastured happy hens and fresh pasta from the same company. We have both available in our little produce store and café, Wombat Hill House in Daylesford’s Botanical Gardens. Well worth a ramble up there.

If all that’s just served to whet your appetite, it needs to be said that it also just scratches the surface of our local food story. The village main street offers more great possibilities in the shape of pork pies, terrines, and local bullboar sausages at the Daylesford Meat Co. Diagonally across on the corner, is the freshly minted  WineSpeak  – a great deli and cellar specialising in minimum intervention small production wines.

Morningswood Farm, near Eganstown, supply magnificent strawberries and other berries to Lake House and are opening their farm as a ‘pick your own’ facility this summer. Venture down Jubilee Lake road and pick up some O’Toole Honey. Messmate, the local variety is in abundance when those beautiful stately trees bloom in our forests. And we’re still only scratching the surface…

When your visit to this beautiful place we live in, is done – fill your esky with more of this local good stuff and take it home with you. Have some friends over, cook a great meal, share the bounty, and think about the dedication and hard work of the wonderful producers and provedores of our region. Remember the smiling faces of the food community you have met. Remember our springs, forests, our undulating landscapes, our far horizons, and our clear, inky black star-filled skies.  And come back soon to explore our ever-evolving food story… There’s lots more to experience.

"Have some friends over, cook a great meal, share the bounty and think about the dedication and hard work of the wonderful producers and provedores of our region."

Alla Wolf-Tasker AM

LOST Magazine

Breaking Bread
Story by Larissa Dubecki

It might come as a surprise to learn that Alta Wolf-Tasker, the one-woman revolution who created Daylesford’s iconic Lake House out of a weedy paddock more than 30 years ago, has anything left on her to-do list.

But despite running the lauded restaurant along with its boutique accommodation and spa, its sibling Wombat Hill House café and being an all-round champion of central Victoria – with the Order of Australia to prove it – Wolf-Tasker stilt longed for the authenticity of her own freshly baked bread.

“it was a dream of mine to offer a Larger variety of good bread to our guests at Lake House but our kitchens were operating to capacity,” she says. “With the Bake House we’ll be able to produce stow-fermented sourdough bread as well as beautifully laminated croissants, viennoiserie, donuts, breakfast buns and all sorts of deliciousness.”

The Bake House is part of a bigger story in the Wolf-Tasker world. It’s part of Dairy Flat Farm, the latest passion project for Alla, artist husband Allen and daughter Larissa.

Located in the picturesque town of Musk, seven kilometres south-east of Daylesford, this 38-acre property features a huge established orchard, vegetable garden, vineyard, olive grove and the beautiful farmhouse itself.

Housed inside a cellar accessed through a tunnel beneath Dairy Flat’s six luxury-suite Lodge, the Bake House has lured the singular talents of baker Michael James, from Melbourne’s renowned Tivoli Road Bakery, to collaborate in its operation and run regular sourdough baking classes for Lodge guests., “He’s an amazing chef and a great teacher,” says Wolf- Tasker. “When the property came on the market, I had all kinds of notions whizzing about in my head. I visited Michael for a chat and it turned out he and his partner were selling Tivoli Road and he was interested in getting involved in new projects… so it was all serendipitous.”

Wolf-Tasker envisages a broad symbiosis between all arms of her empire and the Bake House. Its produce wilt be served in the Lake House restaurant and Wombat Hill House, and guests will be able to visit the Bake House as part of farm tours and workshops. Guests staying at the Lodge at Dairy Flat Farm will also be able to order sourdough crust pizzas.

“I imagine that guests going on a morning ramble around the farm might pop in and chat to the bakers over a coffee. It’s a beautiful space and overlooks some of the gardens around the Lodge. A long avenue of herb plantings leads away from the bakehouse to the olive grove and vegetable gardens beyond,” says Wolf-Tasker, who believes Dairy Flat Farm wilt be unique in Australia in having its own bakehouse.

Also on the cards: Open days and market days during prolific growing periods at the farm when visitors will be able to stock up on beautiful fresh vegetables as well as good bread and pastries. People attending these bucolic events might not realise they’re part of another gentle food revolution.

“I’m old enough to remember when all the old country bakeries around here were bought up, their beautiful wood-fired ovens destroyed and all bread began being distributed from a centralised industrial baking facility,” says Wolf-Tasker. “What a terrible toss for our heritage and food culture. The sooner we move back to more small-scale baking operations, producing good bread throughout villages and local communities, the better.”

 

Dairy Flat Farm Daylesford
238 Dairy Flat Rd, Musk
dairyflatfarmdaylesford.com.au

delicious. on Sunday

You won't believe what Alla Wolf-Tasker is planning next
Story by Dan Stock

The force behind Lake House in Daylesford, one of the country’s most celebrated restaurants and regional hotels, the unstoppable Alla Wolf-Tasker is now extending her vision to a new pioneering project.

It’s a brave person who gets between Alla Wolf-Tasker and a good idea. As daughter Larissa tells it, the latest labour of love for the family behind Daylesford’s luxurious Lake House should really never have happened.

Champion of all things local, seasonal and sustainable, Wolf-Tasker had long longed to “put my money where my mouth is” and start growing produce for the restaurant while at the same time offering a new experience for guests.

The family had been searching “for ages” when a property just seven minutes’ drive from Lake House came up for auction. “Mum and I walked around it and loved it,” says Larissa. “We brought Dad and Rob [Larissa’s husband] back, and we got really excited. But we decided it wasn’t the right time. Rob and I were going to start a family, and it would take too much resources. We’d look for something else. But then Mum went and bought it!”

Wolf-Tasker and her mother, Katherine, planted all the trees on the bare Lake House site 30 years ago, so she took the farm’s drive lined with silver birches as a sign it was meant for the family. “The thing I love most about it,” she says, “is where Lake House had not a tree on it, this already had a beautiful Manchurian pear walk, silver birches on the drive. My mother planted the birches by the lake [at Lake House]. Everywhere we plant birches because it reminds me of my family – just that connection. There were a lot of things that ticked boxes.”

Her husband, Allan, took her out of town on the auction weekend to stop her participating, but the pull of a property just down the road with the potential to offer everything she wanted to add to Lake House proved too strong. Alla phoned in the winning bid.

“I kind of shocked myself that we got it,” she says. In June last year, the family got the keys to Dairy Flat Farm and have been flat chat since then transforming the 15-hectare property into a working farm.

Read more here.

Good Food Magazine

How Alla Wolf-Tasker and the Lake House in Daylesford pioneered a regional rebirth
Story by Larissa Dubecki

In an age in which any flash-in-the-pan chef brings out a cookbook after two years in business, three decades deserves a street parade and glitter cannon – or, in Alla Wolf-Tasker’s case, a book pretending to be about Lake House but mostly celebrating the small producers who have helped make central Victoria one of the nation’s most exciting food destinations.

There’s never a very long time between drinks at this scatter cushion-strewn paradise on the shores of Lake Daylesford. Lake House is an idyll and aperitivo hour is its north star. But it has been a while between books – 10 years, to be exact – which makes Three Decades On: Lake House and Daylesford not just a worthy marker of the passing years but a timely reappraisal of a food world that has irrefutably changed since Alla and Allen Wolf-Tasker first spied their future on a trash-filled piece of land next to a waterway that was more swamp than lake on the edge of a depressed country town.

It’s an origin story Alla Wolf-Tasker is understandably tired of retelling, but much like a child with a favourite book, its appeal to the food-interested public is undiminished. The car wrecks they had to pull from the waters. The caravan they lived in during the four-and-a-bit years it took to build Lake House. The Thursday trips between their day jobs in the city, infant daughter Larissa strapped in the back seat, to spend four services in their tiny 45-seat restaurant convincing Australian diners more interested in toasted cheese sandwiches and Devonshire tea to submit instead to the pleasures of twice-baked goats’ cheese souffle, shiraz-glazed pigeon and tarte tatin.

To put Lake House’s 34-year odyssey into a broader perspective, its debut in 1984 was the same year Tansy’s was the Good Food Guide’s best new restaurant and an unknown Ferran Adria was being hired as a line cook at a French restaurant called elBulli.

Lake House itself in its first year received the GFG endorsement of being “worth a special trip to Daylesford”, then a forgotten town surrounded by Big Agriculture where eight shops operated along the otherwise deserted main street and unemployment hovered at more than 20 per cent.

That they not only survived but thrived, adding accommodation, a spa, cooking school and cafe and scooping up countless awards in the process, is all the more impressive given that 30 years in the restaurant world is like 90 in the rather duller place known as the real world.

Wolf-Tasker laughs now at the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality (not to mention the tears of her Russian mother, who owned a dacha – small country house – nearby and was aghast at her daughter’s mad plan), but history did prove their “unrealistic vision” correct. Lake House is often credited – quite rightly – with kick-starting regional destination dining in Australia at a time when travelling within Victoria was distinctly unfashionable and the smart set flew to the Gold Coast for their holidays.

Read more here.


Some of Alla's Awards

  • Member of the Order of Australia

    ‘Legend’ – Good Food Guide

    Outstanding Contribution to Australian Food – The delicious. Produce Awards

    Outstanding Contributions to Hospitality – Gourmet Traveller

    Outstanding Contributions to Hospitality – RCA

    Living Legend – Melbourne Food & Wine

    Legend of the Industry – The Foodservice Awards


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