Dandenong Ranges, Victoria: Ripe

By Michael Harden
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In the Dandenong Ranges it seems all roads lead to Ripe. Ask any food-savvy local about what is happening with food and wine in the area and you will be inevitably pointed in the direction of this brilliant little produce store and café in the pretty village of Sassafras.

Owner Carolyn Deutsher opened Ripe almost six years ago though in a smaller shop up the street from the former house it now calls home. Originally the business was all about produce – from small scale, artisan businesses, preferably from nearby – but it also had a couple of tables in the shop where people could have a quick coffee or a baguette filled with something from one of the shelves in the store. As popular as the produce side of Ripe was, the café became ever more packed and so when the opportunity to move into the newer, larger premises came, Carolyn packed up her stock of Jam Lady Jam, Kennedy and Wilson Chocolate, Yarra Valley Ice Cream and her excellent range of Yarra Valley wine made by small producers and moved down the street.

The current incarnation of Ripe is a charming, warm and comfortable place that feels both familiar and unique. There is no sign outside but the packed shelves full of pears in brandy or handmade soap or olive oil that greet you the moment you walk through the front door immediately tell you that this is the right place. Around the corner is the counter with its open kitchen, over-worked coffee machine and case full of fantastic meats and cheeses, dips and terrines. There is a fireplace in the main dining area, a veranda out the back and, everywhere you look, evidence of how much good food and wine there is to be consumed. It is one of those places that, even with the queue for tables that happens most lunch times, the pace remains relaxed, the staff affable and the mood peaceful.

The menu at Ripe changes every day, uses as much local product as possible and is fiercely seasonal. In fact it seems Carolyn is happiest when she can use local products, particularly from the people she has come to know since opening her store. She mentions Anne Creber and her range of pickles, sauces and vinegars called Whispers From Provence. “Anne makes us this beautiful elderflower cordial that comes from the same tree on her property every year,” says Carolyn. “I’ve started to refer to it as our tree.”

Though obviously pleased with the success of her business, Carolyn seems more pleased that the heartfelt philosophy on which Ripe is based has been accepted and embraced by so many people. “I put my spirit and my soul into Ripe,” she says. “It is important for me to have a place that is humble, a place that feeds people well, a place that is connected to the community in terms of the people who come here to eat and the products I put on the shelves. Making more money is not important to me but providing good food to everybody is.”

© Michael Harden 2006

First printed in Food and Wine Lover’s Guide to Melbourne and Surrounds (2006)

Ripe, 376 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Sassafras, Victoria  (03) 9755 2100

Regions

  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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