Vanilla Slice Quest – Birchip

So, Mrs Dave and I decided to get serious about this vanilla slice thing.  I did some research and found out that Sharps Bakery in Birchip won the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph in 2009. Given that it was only 350kms from Melbourne we decided we should head up there and see what all of the vanilla slice fuss was about.  Mrs Dave was also keen to check out Stefano’s in Mildura, so we thought we could make an adventure of it.  We both booked a Monday off from work and I got on the web to organise accommodations.

When I called, the people at the Birchip Motel and Caravan Park were very friendly, however, all three rooms were booked but they did offer me a cabin for $49.  I took up the $5 linen offer and we were sorted. Then I got onto wotif and booked a suite[the one with the spa AND the iron & ironing board] at the Mildura Grand for Sunday night.  Sweet!

I then  jumped onto the Stefano’s website only to find out that Stefano takes Sunday off to presumably have dinner with the family.  So our Sunday dinner plans were foiled.  We decided on Thursday night to skip Mildura and move our booking into April when we could get a seat at the restaurant. So, review to follow in April.

Saturday morning came around and we were literally exploding with excitement.  We loaded up the truck and headed off up the road.  Ballarat had a farmers market on so we thought we would make a slight diversion and check it out.  As it turns out a lovely market on the banks of Lake Wendouree[which is not much of a lake at the moment].   We got a great park and went for a quick stroll through the market.  Plenty of great produce and products and an excellent fresh licorice producer called uncle something-or-other.  We got a bag of plain and a bag of chocolate coated.

Now the real bit of the journey began.  We got onto the sunraysia highway and set off north. Plenty of small towns along the way, some even interesting enough to mention.  Donald was great and, we were excited to find out, was home to kookas cookies, which my mum calls heroin biscuits based on the number if people she knows who are hooked on them.  Unfortunately the factory shop was closed otherwise we would have stocked up…

Avoca was good too.  We stopped for a caramel milkshake and a pee break.  Mrs Dave had a look in the op shop and reported that the crochet craze was alive and well in Avoca.  We also admired St Arnaud without stopping, although we did put a note in our book to go back when the antique shops were open.

Eventually, we were on the outskirts of Birchip, which along with Sharps Bakery, is home to The Mallee Bull.  We decided to stop at the Historic Marker, which was for Campbells Tank which we found out was not much more than a hole in the ground that the residents of Birchip occasionally put water in, only to take it out again.

Once on the main drag of Birchip, the tension was palpable.  We spotted Sharps Bakery from about 200 metres away and slid into a park right out the front.  There was something wrong though, it was dark inside and we couldn’t see any people.  It couldn’t be… It was… It was closed.  Oh well, not to worry, we’ll just go in in the morning.  On closer inspection we discovered that it wasn’t only Stefano who liked to enjoy some family time on a Sunday, the Sharps did as well.  So, no vanilla slices for us…  Bugger!

After this let down, we decided we may as well go and check in to the motel.  We found it quickly enough, it was, surprisingly, open, but by this time we were a little jaded and decided to head home…

So, 700kms down and all we had to show for it was two bags of licorice and a couple of nice photos of an abandoned church.

Better luck next time.  The moral of the story is simple.  Ring ahead to make sure its open…

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