Last week’s blogging silence was a result of our world being turned upside-down due to one of our darling little boys falling ill. Like some other couples our age, we don’t have any human children. In fact there is a very good chance that we never will. Instead, our children are two adorable Burmese cats named Rollie and Eddie (or Roland and Edward when they are naughty!). For those who are unaware of the delight of a Burmese – imagine an animal that is somewhere at the half way point between being a dog and a cat! They sit on command for their treats, they always come when called even if they are not hungry, they both sleep under the bed covers with us every night (sometimes with their head on the pillow) and they will be waiting patiently at the door for our return from work. They will alternate between each other being my constant shadow around the house, and are both happiest when their life includes copious amounts of cuddles and company.
We call Rollie the “complicated child”. I figure there is always one in every family. From a young age he developed a form of obsessive compulsive disorder called fabric chewing. Oriental breeds of cats such as Siamese and Burmese are thought to be genetically predisposed to this condition. We generally keep this condition under control with plenty of “environmental enrichment”. There are a number of ways in which this can be done – the more the better. In order to mimic their natural predatory behaviour, they both have to “hunt” for their food each morning as it is hidden around the house. We ensure our house has a lot of “vertical space” with numerous ledges, tunnels and vantage points to view the world from above in addition to keeping the house filled with kitty happy pheromones using a couple of plug-in diffusers containing Feliway. They have a basket of toys to choose from which ends up scattered around the house by the end of most days, and finally we try our best to avoid letting him have any access to his favourite materials however this is easier said than done.
Despite these strategies, in situations that involve changes within the household his OCD behaviour can start to return, most notably when we have guests stay in the house. Unfortunately during my sister’s recent stay, Rollie managed to get hold of a bathing suit and devoured part of it which then obstructed in his stomach requiring emergency surgery to be removed. Being in an extremely emotional and worried state, I knew it was unwise for me to perform the surgery myself, so I asked my dear friend and trusted colleague Chris if she could come into work and operate for me. Despite it being her day off, she rushed in to the hospital with no questions asked. After initially stabilising our little son with intravenous fluids and pain relief, he went into surgery and thanks to Chris’s gentle yet lightening quick skills he was in the recovery ward before I knew it. The boy and I are both so eternally grateful to her for doing such an amazing job of saving Rollie’s life.
As a gesture of our thanks, I invited Chris out for breakfast at Piccos Kitchen. The two of us often go out for breaky together and we are always on the hunt for new and interesting locations and menus. I have been here once quite some time ago with the boy and recall for once his comments on his food went beyond the normal “nice” or “ok” into the realms of “really delicious”. Not a common occurrence. We were greeted by the friendly staff and our coffees arrived very quickly. My espresso was at the perfect temperature and I noted they use Rubra coffee, a fair trade company that is based locally in Perth. I hadn’t called in advance to notify the kitchen of my no gluten, no onion requirements so I asked the waitress if she could assist me in narrowing down my selection off their creative and mouth-watering menu. She immediately then went to the kitchen and got the chef Sharna, who was more than keen to help me create something delicious. When I asked her if the haloumi and zucchini fritters with house smoked salmon were going to be suitable for me, she informed me that they contained wheat flour. This was of no concern to this passionate and extremely accommodating young chef. She kindly offered to especially create for me a gluten free variety of the original menu item and off she disappeared into the kitchen. She returned with a number of different non-wheat flours to check if they were going to be ok for me – we opted for a combination of millet and rice flours, both are gluten free.
Although Sharna had warned us to expect a bit of a wait, our meals came out pretty quickly especially when you consider she was creating something new. Both of our plates were heaped high with food, if you want a decent sized breakfast you will most definitely get your value for money here. Without gluten to bind everything together, a lot of gluten-free carby things like fritters and breads can have a tendency to crumble and fall apart. These zucchini and haloumi fritters held their shape and texture really well. Piled high on top of the fritters was the house smoked salmon with dill and capers, and big handfuls of fresh rocket and herbs.
Chris ordered the Spanish scrambled eggs with roast capsicum and tomato relish, Spanish chorizo and sourdough. Her meal was also a generous size although in keeping with our usual breakfast outing tradition, we did manage to save a tiny bit of room to share a little bit of sweets. We ordered the flourless orange cake. It was incredibly moist and zesty and despite the fact we both felt like we would explode from fullness, we kept on eating it until it was all gone!
Thankfully back at home our lives are starting to return to normal. After a sleepless week of caring for our convalescing child, his little quirky behaviours started to return one by one. Finally last night when he attempted to steal our pizza (his LOVES pizza), we knew he was thankfully well on the road to a successful recovery.
THANK YOU SO MUCH CHRIS – YOU ARE THE BEST! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXPiccos Kitchen 38 Peninsula Road, Maylands 6051 | (08) 9272 4491 | www.facebook.com/PiccosKitchen Price: $$$ ($12-22 Breakfast, $18-29 Mains) Food: 4.5/5 (fresh locally source produce, lots of flavour, creative options) Service: 5/5 (went above and beyond) Ambience: 3.5/5 (hard to assess on a quite Monday morning) Drinks: 4/5 (great coffee – they also do take-away coffees) Total: 17/20
My sister’s impromptu and random visit to Perth for New Year’s seemed to keep getting extended longer and longer. Surely she has a job back in Melbourne to return to? My sister and I had partied fairly hard and fast for five days straight leaving us both a bit scattered and sleep deprived. At the end point of all this, both the boy and I had to return to work whilst my sis remained on her indefinite holiday.
The problem is when you are of one of the only poor souls who have to return to work whilst being surrounded by those still in holiday mood; you completely lose your chance to chip away at your own personal sleep debt. Eventually you may find you get a second wind of energy (or be it a third wind, or in this case – I actually think I lost track of the number). The boy had matters made even worse for him by missing out on most of it after contracting a gastro bug that floored him for over five days.
After my literally scorching experience at Pancho’s, I really wanted to redeem Mexican cuisine for myself. Remaining local, we strolled down to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few pre-dinner drinks before heading to That Little Mexican Place. Immediately, the differences to the mainstream Pancho’s became glaringly apparent to me. Although TLMP was similarly filled to capacity, there was no fluoro paint on blackboards, there were no glowing happy hour cocktails, and there was most definitely no cheesy 80’s music playing. Instead we were greeted by a cosy and sublime vibe that left you feeling like you had stumbled upon one of Perth’s best kept little secrets. TLMP’s humble beginnings started with their tiny restaurant opening over on Fitzgerald Street in North Perth and in more recent years they have expanded over to the south into Vic Park. The owners have spent some time travelling around Mexico where they ate their way around the country to eventually return back to Perth bringing all the flavours and ideas back with them.
Being BYO, we stopped by the Broken Hill bottle shop and bought a bottle of West Cape Howe 2010 “Styx Gully” Chardonnay. I thought this subtly oaked wine produced by one my favourite wineries from the Great Southern region was sure to satisfy my sister’s palate but I was informed it was too fruity for her liking. I thought the citrus was as subtle as the oak but I’m no wine expert and everyone palate is different.
Service was bubbly and helpful with the waitress returning from the kitchen with a whole list of dishes suitable for our no gluten and no onion requirements. I was actually quite impressed with the amount of choice we had with ordering as the waitress explained that they make most of their dishes fresh.
Their guacamole is made fresh “a la mesa” (at your tableside) and is served with house made tortilla chips. Serving tableside always reminds me of Hell’s Kitchen – Chef Ramsey is a keen fan of this however our waitress looked much more relaxed in front of us compared to Ramsey’s contestants in his show! This guacamole was exceedingly better than that at Pancho’s, the serving was about three times the size and it was seasoned perfectly. Even better still, I received no oil burns or other injuries whilst eating it! (TLMP $16 compared to Pancho’s $15)
For entrée we ordered three dishes to share amongst the four of us in addition to the guacamole. The taquitos de Puerco was described as two crispy rolled tacos filled with shredded pork and topped with melted cheese and guacamole. Rather than drenching the crunchy little rolls in cheese and making them soggy, there was just an elegant drizzle and the taco was as crispy as a corn chip but wafer thin.
Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish made of “masa” which is a starchy type of dough that is steamed or boiled wrapped up in a leaf wrapper which is then discarded before eating. Tamales are often filled with a variety of things such as meat, cheese, fruit or vegetables. TLMP’s tamale was made with a duck confit dressed with an orange and chipotle salsa. This dish had a lot of warm in it due to the chipotle salsa which was strengthened by the acidity of the citrus. Very tasty.
We all got quite excited about the cactus tacos which escalated when we saw it was on the list of foods we could order! Despite all of us having a fair amount of travel under our belts – none of us had tried cactus before. These tacos were made using “nopales” which are from the fleshy pad like part of the prickly pear. They are a common feature in Mexican cuisine where they are farmed commercially. It was prepared with portabella mushrooms, a popular way to serve them, however I did find that the mushroom taste overpowered the flavour of the cactus. Not that I’m complaining – I absolutely love mushrooms – but I would have liked to be able to identify the flavours of the cactus. They are supposed to taste like a tarty version of green beans however our dish ended up with quite a mild and nutty flavour (possibly from the mushrooms). I will have to go back and try them again!
Continuing in my desire to establish a fair comparison of TLMP to Pancho’s, we ordered the sizzling prawns. Remember my experience back at Pancho’s? Think soggy vegetables, stale oil and defrosted seafood dripping in slop? Thankfully, as with rest of our dining experience at TLMP, this dish was a winner. The vibrant colouring of the achiote paste also gave this dish a very distinct flavour. The combination of spices produced a fair bit of heat which the boy doesn’t tolerate well and I looked over to see the familiar sight of him poking his tongue out in attempts to cool his mouth down! (Sizzling prawns: TLMP $22, Pancho’s $27)
Lamb shank dishes are nearly invariably off the menu for a fructose malabsorber due to the presence of onion contained in most stocks. So when we saw that the shanks also featured on our list of acceptable dishes – there was minimal discussion, it was a done deal. It was a very good choice. The meat fell off the bone easily and was exceedingly tender.
The triple cheese enchiladas were a bit of a naughty treat ordered due to our interest in jack cheese as this was another thing we hadn’t tried. Despite all the cheese, this dish was surprisingly not too oily or fatty. Because all the cheese melted into one, once again I found it difficult to place the taste of the jack cheese alone. Another excuse for a return visit I guess!
The ceviche was my least favourite dish of the evening. After experiencing such amazing spices and flavours contained in the other dishes we had ordered, delicate fish with sweet mango was simply overpowered by all the other excitement on my palate.
All the authentic Mexican desserts on the menu were not gluten free so reluctantly I had to order the only option which was the berry pannacotta. It was delicious but it wasn’t the right shape or texture for a pannacotta. I wish churros were gluten free!
By contrasting my two dining experiences at Pancho’s and That Little Mexican Place, I appreciate that I may appear to some to be comparing apples with oranges, or chalk and cheese; but here is a little piece of advice for those who believe they are happily sacrificing quality in the manner of a cheap night out at Pancho’s, you may be very mistaken. When comparing simple dishes like the guacamole and the sizzling prawns, TLMP won the fight hands down on both taste AND price. I guarantee I won’t return to Pancho’s again, but I certain my curiosity will drag me back to That Little Mexican Place. And probably more than once!Price: $$$ ($12-18 Entrée, $17-26 Mains) Food: 4/5 (a distinct lack of slops and sour cream) Service: 4/5 (very accommodating ) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a packed restaurant gives good vibe) Drinks: 4/5 (you can BYO your tequila and they make margaritas for you!) Total: 15.5/20 That Little Mexican Place | http://www.tlmp.com.au 279 Albany Highway, Victoria Park | (08) 9472 0767 382 Fitzgerald Street, North Perth | (08) 9227 5755
It was New Year’s Day and I woke up a bit weary-headed and totally famished. We had started our New Year’s Eve night off at the Greenhouse enjoying some good tunes, food and company then all continued partying on back at our house after they shut at 2am. The night was made even better because my sister had flown all the way over from Melbourne to join us for the week.
Looking at the casualties scattered around my house that morning it seemed that I was not the only one that was border-lining on starvation either. My sister and I were craving something much more delicious than my fridge could offer us so; accompanied by Big Bones we set off on our search. Unsurprisingly, the boy chose to stay at home nursing his sore head which was a result of the excesses of the prior evening. We had arranged to meet my bestie and her other half at the OBH for some hair-of-the dog drinks later in the evening so we figured head towards the beach and see what we could find.
Not a lot was open around the Claremont area so after some time of driving around we were pleased to see most of the restaurants along the iconic coastal road in Cottesloe were open. Cottesloe beach is internationally renowned for its beauty and lifestyle. Having had many a pleasant breakfast at the beachside café Barchetta before, I convinced everyone to stop in there for a nibble before we recommenced punishing our poor bodies with further frivolities at the Obie.
As we were seated at our table we all realised we were starting to fade fast and were really in desperate need of some sustenance. Our waitress was friendly enough despite the fact she looked like she was suffering from her own post-celebratory pain. She verbally stumbled throughout the whole process of taking our order and she kept repeating herself several times. We ordered some lemon peppered baby calamari but requested for them to be served gluten-free. She warned us the dish wouldn’t taste as nice without the “powder” so we explained to her that we are used to making compromises and we are actually very grateful to the kitchen for willing to adapt. Unfortunately we should have heeded her advice as she was indeed correct, this dish was quite disappointing. The calamari was tasteless without the crumb and was in desperate need for some seasoning of sorts. It was served with a rocket and herb salad which was similarly flavourless and unexciting.
We also ordered the chilled king prawn salad which was served with cherry tomatoes, orange, spinach and crispy pancetta. The prawns were fresh and a decent size, the pancetta wonderfully crispy and crunchy, and the sweet vincotto dressing married perfectly with the addition of juicy pieces of orange. It was a perfectly fresh and uplifting hangover cure.
Big Bones ordered the house made porcini mushroom gnocchi with braised rabbit and chevre cheese. This dish was not exactly what he expected and consisted of a long plate of braised rabbit topped with four gnocchi which were dolloped with the goats’ cheese. The rabbit was apparently quite dry and was in dire need of some more love and attention in its preparation in order to make the most of its delicate flavours. The gnocchi were also a little dry and perhaps not that fresh.
Finally to share we ordered a bowl of cinnamon kumara fries. These were the highlight of the meal, I have never tried the combination of cinnamon with the kumara before and it was a match made in heaven. It was served with a preserved lemon and basil aioli which only made them even more moreish!
Once the food started to line our stomachs, the thoughts of the last night’s overindulgences faded away into a distant memory so we shared a zesty bottle of Mount Langi Ghiran “Cliff Edge” Pinot Gris. With the cool wind gusting around us from the ocean, we sat back and relaxed as someone fossicked around in the sand with her metal detector. I wondered if she would actually find anything of value. Observing her complete lack of expression of her face in the distance, I highly doubt it!
After finishing our meals we sat waiting for over ten minutes to be offered dessert menus and coffees. After seemingly becoming invisible to all staff, Big Bones gestured over to a waitress and requested dessert menus. A further five minutes passed and she forgotten again to bring them over so we had to ask her again. By the time we actually were given the menus in our hot little hands it was getting well into the evening and we were very late for our drinking session across the road. Refuelled we traipsed over the road to recommence our celebrations where we had left off earlier in the wee hours of the morning. We are going to need to do some serious detoxing in the New Year!Price: $$$$ (Entrée $16-24, Mains $25-39) Food: 6.5/10 Service: 3/5 Venue: 4/5 Total = 13.5/20 Barchetta 149 Marina Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2411 | http://www.barchetta.com.au/