Alla Wolf-Tasker is not one to rest on her laurels. Admittedly, she has always piled project upon project at Lake House, but Wolf-Tasker and her team were just beginning to cruise along comfortably when a new place suddenly popped up. "It had such good bones and spoke to everything we've been talking about at Lake House – about connecting people to the food they're eating – that we just looked at each other and said, 'we have to do it'," she says.
The place Wolf-Tasker is talking about is Dairy Flat Farm, a 16-hectare working farm seven kilometres from Daylesford in central Victoria, home to her renowned restaurant and hotel Lake House. Since buying the farm in 2018, Wolf-Tasker and her family have turned the existing house into a luxury lodge for 12 guests and established a bakery in the cellar that supplies all of the family's businesses with slow-fermented sourdough loaves and Viennoiserie.
But the core project and the reason for buying the property lies in the fields surrounding the lodge. Lake House has long championed locally grown produce, its menu and cooking classes focused on the best fruit, vegetables, herbs and meat being produced nearby. Now Wolf-Tasker is taking the opportunity to not only grow as much produce as possible for the restaurant and their Wombat Hill café but also to present guests with a "closed loop" food and farm experience, where they can sample the food that is growing all around them.
Wolf-Tasker has created recipes for this issue of Gourmet Traveller based on the simple dishes they serve to lodge guests at Dairy Flat Farm, dishes that are driven by the season.
"There is a bit of a hidden agenda in how we feed people at Dairy Flat Farm," says Wolf-Tasker. "We want to remind people about where their food comes from, how delicious fruit and vegetables can be when they're not kept in cold storage for months, and how nutritional produce can be when it's grown in healthy soils with no chemicals or sprays. I can talk about this stuff all day but the best way to get people to understand what I'm saying is to immerse them in it."
There's a lot to be immersed in, including a 350-tree orchard, large vegetable gardens, a series of hoop houses (including one filled with around 17 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes), beehives, a dam filled with trout, an olive grove and vineyard.
"Guests can get up in the morning, wander down to the bakery for a fresh croissant or some slow-fermented sourdough and then take a stroll through the gardens," says Wolf-Tasker. "They can have a chat with the gardener about what's looking good in the garden, perhaps picking artichokes or zucchini that they'll eat later for lunch or dinner."
The well-appointed lodge kitchen means that guests can do the cooking themselves but most let the full-time concierge, Lucinda Tindal, do the cooking for them. Yabbies might be pulled from the dam and then teamed with cucumbers grown in the nearby garden while panna cotta might be flavoured from the property's beehives (guests can suit up and help the beekeeper extract the honey themselves).
Larissa Wolf-Tasker, Alla's daughter and the person responsible for the relaxed, eclectic luxury of the lodge's six suites, says that most people who stay at the lodge like to "gather the tribe" and book the entire lodge but, as all the suites are ensuite, there are times when separate people hire out the rooms, mingling for drinks and food in the communal rooms, "like the farmhouse stays in Europe".
But, for Alla Wolf-Tasker, it's all about the connection to the food.
"The close connection to the food, the immediacy of it excites people," she says. "It's a really good way to educate."
Dairy Flat Farm, 238 Dairy Flat Rd, Musk, Vic, dairyflatfarmdaylesford.com.au
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