Welcome back to our tour of Tasmania’s master crafters, and its magnificent roads, in the INFINITI Q60 Red Sport. Our first stop was a wondrous whiskey distillery in Launceston, which you can read here, and now we’re heading north, at a brisk pace, to chase down something very slow indeed. Snails.
Nicole and Frank Huisman
Having left our friendly whiskey makers to their work, we head north along the Tamar River toward the rocky and rugged coastline that will suddenly drop into a churning Bass Straight, with the twin-turbocharged engine of our Q60 urging us onwards to our next maker.
Nicole and Frank Huisman have no need to carry a hip flask of local whiskey, no matter how fine, in their back pockets. These two were born with Dutch courage. In 2010, they packed up their home in the Netherlands and bought the Winter Brook Vineyard in the Tamar Valley.
It was little more than a hobby farm at the time, but the Huismans had spotted its potential, quickly planting another 3.25 hectares of traditional grapes, along with German Dornfelder and Austrian Blaufränkisch varieties, collecting a swag of prestigious medals for their wines in the years since.
Soon enough, though, they’d spotted even more potential. And so, in 2018 they launched a new fine-food snail farm under the name Tascargot.
The snails, known as helix aspersa (or, less glamorously, as brown garden snails), are raised amongst plantings of lettuce and kale, but these free-ranging molluscs have also developed a taste for grape leaves, and are known to launch low-speed raids on the vineyards under cover of darkness.
Snails hibernate in winter, so as they sleep, Nicole is designing a new custom-built complex that will help her to lift her farm’s production to 250,000 per year. And yes, there really are that many people who like to eat snails, and not just in France.
The Huismans believe local, Tasmanian demand will soak up all their production, as escargot becomes a common site on menus.
Indeed, demand is booming, they say, with three snail farms across the state rushing to keep up with the Tasmanian foodie tourism frenzy.
Getting your snails right is all about patience. “Preparation takes a while,'' says Nicole Huisman. “It is at least five days for purging and that gets rid of the sand and grit. Then you get them out of their shell and let them simmer for two hours.
“The most classic way to prepare the snails are with garlic butter and herbs, baked in the oven. You can also wrap them in blue cheese and puff pastry or throw them in a stir fry or a risotto.”
The opposite of fast-food in every way, it takes between five and 10 days just to prepare each snail to be cooked. But for aficionados of this delicacy, every perfectly cooked plate is worth the mouth-watering wait.
It would be rude to wake the snails up at this time of year just to eat them, and so I find myself back behind the wheel of the Q60, marveling at the patience of these keen farmers and viticulturists.
The Japanese, it seems, take a very similar approach when it comes to designing their cars. Nestled in the INFINITI, waiting for the seat heaters to bring my frosted buns back to life, I’m taken by the attention to detail in every surface that your hands touch in this cabin, from the perfect weight and thickness of the steering wheel to the heft of the doors and the satisfying, quality feel of each and every button.
What it all makes you want to do is drive some more, and yet another great winding Tasmanian road lies ahead of us as we head off to sniff out some truffles.
To be continued… read part 3 here.