Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
After spending the afternoon with Dianne Jacob at her food writing workshop, I whizzed back to my Mum’s house, whipped on a frock and headed back out to the Eat Drink Blog Conference dinner at the Hilton Adelaide. I was joined by the rest of the WA “Team”; Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse, Michelle from Foodie Cravings and Moni from Gastromony along with some interstate blogging friends.
The Hilton’s Executive Chef Dennis Leslie themed the evening based on a South American fiesta with the idea of making the meal “fun”. It was set out on the terraced pool deck in the open air up high amongst the sky scrapers (well, they are more like just tall buildings in Adelaide!). It was a warm and humid night and the deck was lit up like a Christmas tree with fairy lights.
Feeling like superstars, we were ushered out onto the terrace where we watched views of the sun setting sun over the Adelaide Hills. A whole lamb slowly rotated around on a spit and the mouth-watering smell of barbequed meats filled with air. As lamb sliders were passed around and devoured rapidly by all, our waiter informed me that a gluten free option was on its way for me. After what felt like hours, he returned with a massive gluten free bun filled like slippery wedges of freshly carved meat.
In my hunger and eagerness to devour my gluten free adaptation, I shoved a large door stop of lamb into my mouth imagining that it would be easy enough to chew. I seemingly underestimated the size of this chunk of flesh and was unable to open my mouth wide enough to chew it. Not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, I proceeded to try to swallow the piece whole. It plugged my gullet like sock in a drain and I couldn’t breathe. Gasping as discretely as possible, I quickly grappled for my wine and chugged down a couple of mouthfuls but to no avail.
By this point I’m sure I must have been turning a shade of blue and shamefully turned away from the table to dramatically hoik up the elongated piece in a most inelegant manner. Oh my god, how embarrassing. Thank goodness I was surrounded by friends. From then on forth, I was very particular to cut my food into tiny, mouse sized pieces for the remainder of the evening.
Although by this point we did feel a little ripped at the seams, the sight of yet another chocolate fountain had lost some of its original appeal earlier that day and we started to yearn for something a bit more interesting. After receiving a tip off from a local regarding the whereabouts of a late night dessert bar; the four of us were dead set on fitting just one more course in. Everyone can always find room for dessert. We all jumped into a cab and headed across town to Devour Dessert Bar.
The burnt milk pannacotta had an exquisite blackberry gel centre that exploded out like goo when I plunged my spoon into its wobbliness. It was served on a bed of peanut butter crunch which gave a wonderful texture contrast to the jiggling pannacotta. I am not normally a fan of peanuts but the crunch reminded me of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes which in my pre-gluten free days I use to adore. I could have eaten of whole bowl of that peanut butter crunch.
The peanut butter and jelly macaron was too chewy and lacked the familiar “poof” sensation when I bit into the outer shell. I presumed they may not have been very fresh or alternatively refrigerated for too long. Although I felt the macaron wasn’t up to scratch, the rest of my dessert was so good that despite being the least keen person to visit Devour, I was one of the only ones who finished everything on my plate! Overloaded, overindulged and very satisfied we all headed home to get some sleep in preparation for a big day of conference the next morning.
I have worked at the same practice for nearly ten years. It has been both an unavoidable yet enjoyable experience to form strong bonds with some of my team members over this period of time. Despite wishing that all my good staff would stay with me forever, I respect that people’s lives change and they move on. When a true friendship is formed in addition to a professional relationship it actually ceases to become that important that you remain working together as you will always stay in touch with each other.
It was sad to lose Tracy from our highly talented team of vet nurses, but dealing with other people’s naughty animals can be emotionally trying work and like many others she eventually got fed up with her career choice. Tracy and I share a lot in common: we love our food and wine, have similar alternative music tastes and appreciate the finer things in life. After a few months of settling into her new job we realised we must make more effort to catch up socially and organised a brunch outing sans children and men.
Sayers Sister is the new venture by Mark and Steph Sayers in the leafy suburban part of Northbridge. The original café Sayers Food in Leederville has been open since 2006 and continues to fill up with hordes of hungry people every morning. It appears that Sayers Sister is following in her footsteps and similarly shares in such popularity. To my relief Tracy managed to score us table only minutes before the morning rush began. As we sat and sipped our coffees, we watched people eagerly queuing out the door and down the street desperate for a table.
As many of my dear readers may know, I have an infatuation with poached eggs. I truly believe one of the simplest and most satisfying things in life is that burst of molten sunshine when you gently cut into them. So to prove to myself I’m not entirely predictable, I decided to order the scrambled eggs. Folds of foamy eggs flopped over the plump gluten free toast and were draped generously with citrus salmon gravlax. I gasped at the size of my dish; this was one serious looking breakfast! The eggs literally dissolved in my mouth however I didn’t enjoy my gluten free toast as much as last time. It was slightly under-toasted leaving a slight doughy aftertaste.
Tracy chose the buttermilk pancakes with blueberry compote and lemon posset. Her serving size was not for the light hearted either and you can be rest assured that the men in your life will not walk away from this place hungry. The lemon posset was set like custard and so delicately fragrant. With Tracy’s encouragement, I couldn’t resist a little taste. Imagine creamy lemon butter crossed with a soft gooey pudding. It was totally divine.
Sayers Sister sure does give her sibling a run for her money. The ambiance is much brighter, lighter and has more energy and as seen by the lengthening queue as we left it is hitting the spot for many punters. I thought the execution of the food could have been slightly improved; toast is not a hard thing to make however this was made up for by the use of extremely fresh ingredients, an interesting menu and very good coffee.Sayers Sister 236 Lake St, Northbridge WA 6000 | (08) 9227 7506 | Facebook Price: $ ($11-22 for breakfast meals) Food: 4/5 (great menu choices, huge meals) Service: 4/5 (similar vibrancy and warmth as at Sayers) Ambience: 4/5 (fresh flowers, communal tables, bright, clean open kitchen) Drinks: 4.5/5 (5 senses coffee…winning) Total: 16.5/20
Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
As much as I would love to be spending more of my time eating and blogging like most food bloggers I have a day job. I am a veterinarian who is as passionate about my career as I am about food. In order to stay abreast of this ever evolving field I regularly attend veterinary conferences and congresses. Forever thirsty for new information and ways to better practice medicine, these conferences are often quite intense for me and I have been known to go through a whole biro pen from furiously scribbling down extra notes in the margins of our proceedings.
While I have been a vet for over ten years I have only been blogging for just over a year and my abilities to write and take photos still have a long way to go before I would consider myself “good”. Keen to improve my skills as an amateur I was over the moon to be invited to join 80 fellow bloggers to attend the third annual Eat Drink Blog Conference (EDB) this year. Better still the conference was to be held in Adelaide, the city I grew up in and where my darling mother still lives.
Vets are not unsociable folk by any means; however the extroverts are few and far between meaning at a conference I would be lucky if I managed to network with a small handful of colleagues each time. In stark contrast, the energy and excitement amongst the Eat Drink Blog delegates was infectious. Being more isolated in Perth, there were many bloggers that I had never met. Yet over the past twelve months together we have shared life’s ups and downs via our blogs and social media. Such a warm and welcoming bunch of people filled the room and I sensed a strong sense of community amongst us from the outset.
This year was to be the first year that the conference spanned over two days and I cannot sing enough praise to the dedicated team of people responsible for making Eat Drink Blog such a successful weekend.
I spent much of my adolescent years in Adelaide and the Adelaide Central Markets holds a very dear place in my heart. In the early stages of coping with a broken home, my Mum and I always found solace visiting the markets together. Not only did our scant food budget thrive on the cheaper produce, the atmosphere and buzz was always enough for us to temporarily forget our pains and absorb the vitality. Returning to the markets some twenty years later conjured up a mix of emotions as this was one of the highlights of one of the darker times of my younger years.
Our tour included visits to a number of South Australian owned businesses and many of these were family run having been in the Central Markets for generations.
After the market tour, delegates had the option of joining a winery tour in the Barossa or McLaren Vale, or to participate in a food writing workshop by acclaimed writer Dianne Jacob. As much as the imagery of a road trip with a bunch of food obsessed bloggers sounded like a dream come true, I genuinely want to improve my writing abilities and thus opted for the workshop.
Coming over from wet weather and storms in Perth I wasn’t prepared for the stifling hot day in Adelaide and prickled with sweat as I peeled off my layers walking in the sunshine. Killing time before the workshop we fortunately stumbled upon Dessert Story; a Taiwanese dessert restaurant. Desperate for something refreshing I ordered the Kiwifruit crushed ice. To my surprise out came a towering pyramid of syrupy bright green ice with chunks of kiwifruit tumbling down the sides like cartoon lava. I was unable to finish it partly due to its gargantuan size and partly due to its sickening sweetness.
For anyone interested in becoming a food writer, be it a professional journalist or an unschooled blogger, I can highly recommend attending one of Dianne Jacob’s food writing workshops or at least reading her book “Will Write for Food”. She made us all reflect critically on our writing styles and gave us lots of techniques to improve our style and find our “voice”. Throughout her three hour workshop, she made us all participate in exercises which although hard to do on the spot were effective at illustrating her points.
This is my description of eating a sweet potato chip using adjectives, simile and some emotional significance. Bear in mind this had to be written on the spot!
“The crown of my tooth nearly shatters like glass under the impact of the snap. I start to salivate as I anticipate a piquant brininess only to be left underwhelmed by the subtlety, wimpy aftermath. I breathe a deep sigh of relief as memories of my recurrent nightmares of rotting teeth fade back to the distant cobwebs of my mind. “
The other big take home point for me was the fact that gushing is boring. It’s easy to write a review about a fantastic meal and a terrible one. But most meals are neither of these and fit into somewhat of a grey area. What distinguishes the more talented writers is their ability to write about these grey areas and still manage to capture their readers.
I have my new challenge. Mark my words; there will be no more “delicious”, “yummy” or “cooked to perfection” on Chompchomp from here forth!
Having only just celebrated my first blogiversary last month, I consider myself somewhat of a newcomer to Perth’s food blogger ranks. What has truly amazed me and touched my heart profoundly is the strong sense of community amongst fellow bloggers. Despite my inexperience, I have been graciously greeted with open arms not just by other fresh(wo)men like myself, but by those with popular, well-established and recognised blogs. It certainly does make a fresh change from the comparatively serious and introverted veterinary world.
Four bloggers from Perth including yours truly were selected to attend the third annual Eat.Drink.Blog conference this year in Adelaide. In preparation for our highly anticipated weekend away, we met up during the week prior for dinner to talk “blogger’s stuff” and of course to eat!
After a few restaurant options were toyed around, we ended up agreeing on West End Deli in West Perth. Snuggled in the residential end of West Perth, West End Deli is a quaint little bistro owned by a husband and wife duo; Justin and Christine Peters. I had been here once several years ago and confess my previous experience back then wasn’t very memorable. I vaguely recall the kitchen appearing to have strong reluctance to adapt any dishes for me and that we waited well over 45 minutes for our breakfast meals only for them to forget our coffees. Twice. Having said that, this was quite some time ago and I know one should try to avoid forming a strong judgement from just one experience.
It’s incredible how the same dining room, with all the same interiors, can change its whole persona at night. The casual, sunlit café I remember from previously had magically transformed into a sombre, intimate and classy bistro. It wasn’t long before we all arrived and with glasses of wine in hand we relaxed into the vibe. Some unexpected amuse bouche were brought to our table; a crisp homemade wonton piped with creamy herb and goats cheese and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
Being unable to eat the wonton, a plump little ball of pear filled with the cheese was offered to me as a replacement. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or fussy, I quickly chowed down on a glucose tablet before I slipped my juicy treat into my mouth. Being such a small amount of pear, it is easy to counteract the fructose with a small dose of glucose. For times like these, I carry these tablets everywhere with me.
Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse started with the potato and pickled sardine terrine topped with a curl of crème fraîche and a poached yabby tail.
Michelle from Foodie Cravings was initially reluctant to order herself an entrée as we had already earmarked a couple of dishes on the dessert menu and she sensibly wanted to pace herself. The ricotta gnocchi managed to twist her rubber arm when the waitress informed her it would be no trouble to omit the candied olives and replace with an alternate ingredient. The gnocchi were light, mini sized pillows, tossed in fresh sage and garlic and tumbled over a thick smear of pesto sauce.
I chose the slow cooked egg for entrée as my obsession with these gelatinous beauties continues. Perched on a nest of crumbled bacon it was accompanied a pea mash flavoured with white anchovies and lashings of truffle oil. Weblike shavings of Reggiano cheese were sprinkled on top. I struggled to do this dish justice with my photography in the flickering candle light however suffice to say my palate was rewarded. This breakfast-esque spin on bacon and eggs was a winner.
Moni from Gastromony chose the elegantly plated charred octopus. Coated with a thin chermoula crust it came with pear and walnut salad and a smear of blood orange. Kudos to her assistance with taking a photo for me as my go-go gadget arms couldn’t reach across the table without losing some degree of decorum. I still get a little embarrassed and feel awkward taking photos of people’s meals as deep in my heart I feel like a novice.
Ideas of pork belly and spatchcock failed to get past the consideration stages for any of us and we all opted for the snapper for mains. The fish was seared to a butter smooth consistency and balanced precariously over some prawns and mussels. A thin saffron coloured broth gave a subtle perfumey bitterness to sharpen the softer flavours of this dish. Tarry coloured squid ink brandade was blobbed on top and gave a pleasant piquant aftertaste. Brandade is French sauce made from an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil.
The girls all ordered the potted cheesecake for dessert. It was served in the same adorable little pots that I saw Rochelle Adonis’s salted caramel mousse recently. Apparently she imports them from France. What was much more curious about this dish was that next to the pot laid an innocent little tube labelled “Squeeze Me” containing salted dulche de leche.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I wondered if my new found friends would slowly start shrinking in their seats to become miniature pint-sized versions of their former selves. Thankfully the only surprise to follow was the unexpected layer of popping candy on top of the cheesecake. No one had any trouble finishing off their desserts which is always a good sign.
I was informed by our waitress that none of their desserts on the menu were gluten free however in complete contrast to my experience at West End Deli many moons ago, the chef kindly rose to the occasion and wasn’t going to let me miss out by any means. I was offered a honey vanilla parfait served with a caramelised warm banana. Grateful for their efforts once more, I didn’t bother going through the finer details that fructose malabsorbers cannot have honey. I presumed the amount would indeed be small anyway so I sneakily crunched on another couple of glucose tablets. My parfait was a little icy and hard for my liking but this was made up for by the dulcet banana.
I have to be honest; my recent experience at West End Deli has turned my opinion around for the better. They were accommodating for our varied requests and their service was discrete yet warm and welcoming. As we left the kitchen staff bid us all farewell from the open plan kitchen; a nice touch. I think I am going to have to give their breaky another try.West End Deli 95 Carr Street, West Perth, WA 6005 | (08) 9328 3605 | www.westenddeli.net.au Price: $$$ ($25-35 per meal, BYO) Food: 7.5/10 (flexible with requests, small menu executed well) Service: 4/5 (attentive without being obtrusive, warm and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (very dark ambiance, would be romantic for couples) Drinks: Unable to assess as BYO. Total: 15.5/20
Things are definitely on the onwards and upwards for foodies living here in Perth. This past year has seen a plethora of high quality dining establishments open their doors and it is certainly something to be proud of. We are fortunate enough to live only five minutes’ drive away from the Crown Metropol (formerly known as the Burswood Casino) where internationally famous chefs Neil Perry, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Guillaume Brahimi all have flagship restaurants residing there. Now it is never too hard to have a fancy meal out.
I made an initial reservation for the two of us at Bistro Guillaume during their opening week however this had to be postponed as I had forgotten we had already made plans to go out with some friends to Duende. After managing to secure a table on another weekend, the Boy informed me that I had booked on the same night as his High School Reunion and would have to cancel once again. By this point I am sure the reservation desk had red flagged me as an annoying customer! Third time lucky, we successfully synced our busy schedules and locked in date night.
It was the first time we had been back to the Casino since their massive renovations and its fresh new face lift has successfully dragged it out of the eighties into current times! We walked past Linneys on our way to The Merrywell for some pre-dinner drinks and like an insect attracted to bright light I couldn’t help but feel the powerful drag towards their sparkling boutique. Linneys designed my engagement ring and seeing as we needed to start looking at wedding rings soon I figured now was as good a time as any to begin.
As we browsed all their beautiful pieces, the store assistant kindly offered to clean my ring for me as this is a complimentary service offered to all owners of Linneys jewellery. Only minutes later “my precious” returned to me all glimmering and twinkling like it had never been worn! I was left torn between amazement at its shining beauty and shame on how dirty it had become! I need to visit Linneys more often!
Upon arrival to Bistro Guillaume we were shown to our booth which was perfectly located right in front of the kitchen. It was like having a television with an action movie playing for us to watch while we chatted away and ate our meal. I was further impressed when some complimentary gluten free bread was brought to our table. For once I wasn’t going to have to sit and watch the Boy eat his bread as I was too busy enjoying my own!
We commenced with the escargot en persillade, served the classic way my father used to make for us when we were young. Melted butter, herbs especially parsley and loads and loads of garlic formed a little pool in which each slippery morsel sat submerged. Beneath the overwhelming garlickyness I could still detect their subtle earthy flavour. Like calamari, if overcooked escargot becomes rubbery and inedible, these were cooked perfectly.
I love all oysters and have been known to make a complete glutton of myself if allowed. Following in the footsteps of my father, I could easily eat several dozen au natural in one sitting provided they are fresh. One of my favourite types of oyster is the Sydney Rock; this species of oyster are smaller, have a more intense and distinct flavour than Pacific Oysters and apparently take 2-3 times longer to reach maturity. Knowing that I have a tendency to order too much food, the boy managed to intercept me attempting to order a full dozen in addition to our two entrees and convinced me of a compromise of a half dozen to share. Each mouthful was as fresh as the sea leaving that lingering sweet, creamy aftertaste.
The recent heartbreaking news earlier this year on the horrific treatment of our cows in Bali slaughterhouses has struck very deep to both of our hearts. As a result our red meat intake has reduced dramatically and now I try to source our produce only from organic farms that are passionate about animal welfare. However seeing steak tartar on the menu, neither of us could resist, it’s up there with Sydney Rock oysters in awesomeness. I took some consolation that it was made with Dandaragan organic beef. For those not convinced about raw, finely diced beef you seriously have to give this a try. The meat was exceedingly fresh and literally dissolved in your mouth leaving no unpleasant meaty aftertaste. The serve was particularly huge and I would have preferred a few more of the crunchy potato crisps to scoop up all the deliciousness.
The venison tenderloin was out of this world. The rich nearly berry-like flavours of the venison melted beautifully into the beetroot sauce and this really was a match made in heaven. In my eagerness to devour it I accidentally splashed ruby red sauce about in a very unladylike fashion and was thankful to be wearing a dark coloured dress! I want to return to Bistro just to order this again.
The boy ordered the veal sweetbreads with a fricassee of mushroom and truffle. The soft creamy pillows of glands were a little too fatty for him but this was circumvented somewhat by the hearty and flavoursome sauce. There was a wide variety of mushrooms in his dish and you could clearly see the fairly generous servings of truffle buried in there.
Although I realise I am supposed to be limiting my calorie intake with our wedding day looming close, this is very difficult to achieve when you are approached by a handsome man with a thick French accent bearing a plate of cheeses. I confess I got a little lost on his cheese journey and may have accidentally ordered more than we really needed. Are you that surprised? I ordered Mont D’or, a soft but rich, washed rind cows cheese that just glooped onto the board; Roquefort, a well-loved blue sheep cheese; Sainte Maure, a classic raw soft goat cheese that we recently had at Duende; Caprin, a hard goat cheese with a distinct nutty taste that I often enjoy when visiting my dad; and Pyengana, an aged Tasmania cheddar.
As you can see, we had no trouble finding room for any of these cheese masterpieces. They were served at the perfect temperature and were even accompanied by toasted gluten free bread.
I have heard many great things about Bistro Guillaume’s desserts however unfortunately for me the majority of them are not gluten free. My only option other than the sorbet was the very un-French mini Pavlova with passionfruit cream and mango sorbet. I am a little on the pedantic side when it comes to my Pavlova’s texture; in a similar vein to a macaron, there needs to be an external crunch, and spongy middle and a gooey centre. This version exhibited a little too much crunch and not enough moist bounciness inside.
Bearing in mind the Boy is not a big desserts person, I was super jealous to hear he thought the profiteroles were the bomb. As our waiter poured thick molten chocolate sauce over the perfectly formed balls I figured if there was ever the temptation to poison myself with gluten then this was it. He took no hesitation informing me the pastry was crackling crisp on the outside and flaky light on the inside. Despite wanting a taste so desperately I resisted and was very thankful the following day.
Coming from a French background I may be a little biased in stating French cuisine is one of the best in the world and Guillaume has managed to capture its simple elegance without overindulgence. Fresh local ingredients, traditional recipes and impeccable service…..Bravo!Bistro Guillaume Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | (08) 9362 7551 | www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrees $18-28, Mains $30-45) Food: 4.8/5 (would have given a five if it wasn’t for the pav) Service: 5/5 (highly attentive without being in your face) Ambience: 4.5/5 (relaxed, comfortable bistro vibe) Drinks: 4/5 (lots of French options!) Total: 18.3/20