I hate making promises that cannot be kept and I frown upon those that do. Come New Year’s Day when I am surrounded by friends and family making pledges to be healthy, eat less, drink less, exercise more and all that jazz I usually remain mum. That is until this year. After my mini-burn out in November that ended in me having to take a week off work, I reluctantly returned to the grindstone still exhausted but somewhat more functional. My drinking habits had escalated to compensate which only served to make me even more tired. Our New Year’s Eve was supposed to be a quiet one at our local The Precinct but with such fabulous food and atmosphere, we both got a little carried away. The night ended with me staying up well after the Boy had gone to bed, dancing alone in the kitchen with the cats. Yes, I really am a crazy cat lady.
Feeling sad and sorry for ourselves on New Year’s Day, the Boy and I agreed we would attempt to do a 60 day healthy promise to our bodies which involved drinking no alcohol, eating a plant based diet, fasting for two days a week and taking up weekly yoga with a private instructor.
Could we do it?
A vast part of our time together is spent eating out and the thought of regularly doing this without a drink in hand sounded a bit foreign to me. But people have a way of surprising themselves and lo and behold, we have nearly reached the end of our first month with close to a 100% success rate if you can exclude the small amount of wine we drank on our weekend with Mum in Adelaide. I mean, when you are at a winery you cannot NOT drink, can you?
Over recent weeks I have found myself searching for more vegetarian focused restaurants to visit. Just because we are not drinking alcohol it doesn’t mean we give up our regular nights out. To me that is just madness. The first healthy place on my list was The Raw Kitchen. These guys have recently packed up and moved locations to a bigger and most definitely better venue.
Their new digs have a yoga studio, a shop and a much more comprehensive menu including some cooked food plus the signature raw dishes. Everything is both dairy and gluten free without a piece of meat in sight. We each started our meal with a freshly blended smoothie. Since getting my own Omniblend blender at home, smoothies are a regular treat for us. I no longer crave eggs on toast after a long run; I lust after some sort of insanely swamp-like smoothie. Most of The Raw Kitchen’s smoothies contained agave syrup which is not suitable for us fructose malabsorbers as it is high in fructose however they are happy to omit this on request.
I chose the Minty Moment which contained fresh mint, cacao, vanilla bean, ice and almond milk with the agave syrup omitted. Unfortunately I believe the agave was an essential ingredient for this drink as a sweetener and it was not the easiest to drink without it. The Boy’s Summer Green with organic spinach, cucumber, mango, mint, lemon, dates was much tastier but I only dared to take a miniature sip as both mango and dates are high in fructose and would leave me with a significant tummy ache.
For our late lunch, we each picked two dishes and shared the lot between us. Our waitress organised for the meals to be brought out staggered to give us time to relax and enjoy each one. We started off with some roasted chats (not raw obviously) dusted with fennel seeds. They came with a lemon wedge to squeeze over them. Browned to a chewy, near crunchy colour we gobbled these up in snippety snap record time.
To accompany our only cooked dish we ordered their farmers market superfood salad. At a quick glance it didn’t look like anything very special but as I delved deeper into the piles of coloured leaves I could literally feel my liver detoxifying by the second. In addition to the multitude of greens, there was some seaweed, goji berries, pickled ginger and sprouts and everything was tossed thoroughly with a garlic ginger tahini dressing.
Our next two dishes were more interesting. The first one was something that we have already tried on our previous visit to The Raw Kitchen; raw nachos. I tried my hardest to encourage the Boy to order a dish we hadn’t already eaten but with no success. He can be pretty easy going most of the time but when he has definitively made up his mind for something he will not budge.
The nachos were made with raw, dehydrated, hand cut corn chips, walnut “beans”, fresh tomato salsa, guacamole and cashew “sour cream”. It was hard to believe this meal contained no dairy as the sour cream tasted like the real McCoy. There was a lot of onion in the salsa which I had to slowly and deliberately pick out piece by piece. Next time I will have to try and remember to ask for it without.
Being massive sushi fans we were keen to see how the raw sushi would turn out. The cooked sushi rice was replaced with cashew cauliflower “rice” and rolled up in seaweed with enoki mushrooms, avocado, pumpkin, sprouts, wasabi mayo and ponzu. Marinated shiitake mushrooms were served on a bed of carrot and cabbage on the side. Incredibly this flavour-packed sushi tasted pretty close to normal sushi except the texture of the “rice” was a little chunkier.
Eating raw, vegetarian, grain free food always leaves me feeling so light even if I eat a fair amount. I simply don’t get any of that uncomfortable bloating that overeating normal food usually gives me. This meant we both had plenty of room for dessert and whilst a lot of raw desserts contain dried fruit and thus fructose, I was willing to risk it with my glucose tablets ready in hand. After much discussion we both picked our own desserts only to be informed that all but one of the cakes had sold out in addition to all of their raw ice cream and most of their smaller sweets.
All that they had left were the hazelnut torte and a couple of small sweets including the peppermint slice. We ordered one of each. It didn’t end up being such a bad decision after all as each choice was delectable in its own right. The Hazelnut torte was richly chocolaty with a light foamy mousse texture that once again tasted so dairy-ish.
The peppermint slice had a hint of coconut in it and ended with a refreshingly cool minty aftertaste. Despite the pure decadent appearance of the torte, the peppermint slice was the winner by a long shot. The Boy actually had to physically stop me from over indulging at the counter as I nearly bought a stack to go home with. He reminded me that although they were gluten and dairy free, it was doubtful they were fructose free and I would regret my excesses the following day. I hate it when he is right!
My consolation prize was a visit to their shop where we spend a little wad of cash on some books and little snacks. I even found one of Pana Chocolate’s flavours that isn’t sweetened with agave syrup; the Sour Cherry and Vanilla. For those lovers of raw chocolate, Pana Chocolates are worth a try. So buttery smooth, it melts in your mouth like no standard chocolate could.
Raw Food is making more and more of an emergence into mainstream eating cultures. Whilst some may consider it a bit of a fad, and some may take it to the extreme, we enjoy incorporating it into our own diet within reason. As The Raw Kitchen can prove; raw food can be much more than just a pile of boring salads and soaked nuts and if you haven’t experienced it I highly recommend a visit.The Raw Kitchen 181A High Street, Fremantle | (08) 9433 4647 | www.therawkitchen.com.au Price: $$ Food: 4/5 (being kind to your body never tasted so good. A food allergic’s dream) Service: 3/5 (they know their menu well, shame about so many items having run out) Ambience: 3.5/5 (open, well lit and funky) Drinks: 3/5 (smoothie galore – unless you have fructose malabsorption) Total: 13.5/20
Australia Day is our official national holiday and on this day there are countless parties, fireworks displays and festivals held across the nation all in the name of celebrating our great country. For many music buffs, including myself, there is one particular focus of this public holiday; that is the radio countdown broadcast of Triple J’s Hottest 100. The Hottest 100 is considered to be the world’s biggest music democracy and for about one month prior to Australia Day people can vote for their favourite songs of the year.
This year I was inspired with the anticipation of the big music event to compile a list of Perth’s Hottest 100 food blogs. Currently the only guide we have for measuring our state’s blog popularity is via the relatively useless Urbanspoon ranking. This system doesn’t actually use blog traffic for calculations but is merely a sum of the page views for the places the blog has reviewed. Additionally this list excludes other forms of food blogs that don’t write restaurant reviews such as recipe blogs.
Thang Ngo, the author of the Sydney based blog Noodlies identified this problem last year and took it upon himself to compile a list of Sydney food blogs that was ranked in a more accurate manner. He used a well-known website ranking tool called Alexa and manually obtained each blog’s ranking and listed all 300-odd of them. What a mammoth task! I was keen to do a similar list for Perth and with Thang’s guidance and support I commenced the very time consuming undertaking to list Perth and WA’s food blogs. I have done my best to include as many blogs as I could find including both wine and coffee blogs but my deepest apologies if I have missed your blog, please send me a comment and I can add you on.
Just a little word about Alexa ranking; Alexa Internet is a US-based subsidiary company of Amazon that provides commercial web traffic data. It estimates traffic by comparing how a website is doing compared to all other sites on the Internet over the past 3 months. Alexa’s website describes this rank as being “calculated using a combination of the estimated average daily unique visitors to the site and the estimated number of page views on the site over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of unique visitors and page views is ranked #1”. To give you an idea of how it goes, Google is number one closely followed by Facebook. Noodlies has given a more detailed explanation on Alexa’s merits and pit falls when used for ranking blogs. These rankings were taken on the 25th January 2014. For a complete list of all Perth’s Food Blogs click here.
So here it is: Perth’s Hottest 100 Food Blogs 2014
My father-in-law’s birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day making it an occasion that is usually celebrated in a very relaxed style at their home. This year we were unable to attend the family gathering and proposed to take them out for lunch instead with just the four of us. Predictably for the time of year in Perth, the weather was absolutely glorious so I convinced everyone to head to the coast and meet at Il Lido Italian Canteen in Cottesloe.
The beach in Cottesloe is something to be proud of and in my humble opinion has to be one of the prettiest beaches in our state. The sky was as blue as the clear waters below it and the white expanses of sand were splashed with bright colours of beach towels and bikini clad sunbakers. There are people around the world who pay to go on holiday to be able visit locations like this and here we have it on our back door step. You cannot help but love Perth.
Il Lido is built in a 1935 heritage building and back in the 1940’s this site housed Lido Cabaret, which was the old-time equivalent to our modern day nightclub. Much of the interior has been kept intact with decorative high ceilings and windows facing out onto the beach. Il Lido has been on my ever growing wishlist of places to eat for some time having already been to both of their sister restaurants Duende and Gordon Street Garage a number of times.
Most of the small plates were already gluten free or were easily adaptable so we started off with a number of them to share before moving onto something more substantial. I have always been a huge lover of oysters as many of you may have noticed. Despite having tried them prepared countless different ways, until recently my favourite style has be “au natural”. That was until I tried Lalla Rookh’s incredible freshly shucked oysters with cucumber chilli granita. The combination of fresh saltiness and sweet iciness ending in a gentle spicy kick was more than just intriguing.
So when I saw something that sounded very similar on Il Lido’s menu I got quite excited. I should have however ordered them with no expectations because these oysters came with just a teeny dollop of melted sorbet not a shell full like I was expecting. Although the oysters were delightfully fresh, having such a small amount of sorbet made them lacklustre by comparison.
It must have been the day for carpaccio because I found myself unable to decide between the tuna and the beef. My solution was to simply order one of each. The tuna carpaccio was a complete hit. The dish was literally as pretty as a picture; chewy pieces of candied chilli, torn fresh orange and olives were scattered on top of thinly sliced fish. Each piece of tuna dissolved on the tongue leaving a surprisingly complex array of flavours on the palate.
The beef carpaccio was just as tender and was served with generous shavings of truffle sottocenere cheese along with lavish smears of horseradish cream. Each mouthful was as soft as silk and resulted in a brief period of silence across the table while we all gustated in pleasure.
I mean, who can say no to truffle cheese?
Our last starter of scallops had to be slightly adapted to be gluten free by omission of the “crumbs”. Plump scallops were hidden under piles of freshly tossed beans and greens. Whilst not the biggest scallops in town, each mouthful was browned to a warm caramel colour yet remained juicy and soft.
My father-in-law ordered himself the lamb cutlets for his celebratory birthday meal. The two meaty lamb chops came with light salad of fresh figs, spinach, basil, goats cheese and pine nuts all tossed enthusiastically to coat each component in tangy, creamy cheesiness.
My mother-in-law opted for a lighter meal, choosing the poached chicken salad with peaches, prosciutto, almonds and goats cheese. Her plate was piled high and ended up being a bigger serve than she had anticipated. I love how each of their salads came with a mix of seasonal fresh fruit and goats cheese, such a lovely combination to have on a hot summers day.
The Boy ordered the beetroot and goats cheese crespelle. Crespelle are the Italian equivalent of crepes, can be served as a savoury or sweet dish and are usually made using small sized pancakes folded with a sauce filling. By the time I had taken shots of his parent’s meals he was starting to get impatient giving me not much more than a millisecond to capture its vibrant colours.
I was in the same boat as my MIL and craved a light and healthy salad. I always eat way too much over Christmas and by the time New Year’s approaches I’m actually ready for a break! I chose the hickory smoked salmon with avocado, green beans and a yoghurt dressing. My helping was also generous with all the ingredients tumbled together evenly. I hate salads where the key ingredients are just dumped on top of the greens; everything needs to be tossed through!
My husband’s family are usually big eaters especially the men. It’s those long Dutch legs that need that extra filling up! I didn’t anticipate our big servings and ordered a couple of sides; crisp potato skins with paprika salt, aioli and a rocket, pear and parmesan salad. The potato skins are worth returning back for. Slightly spicy, super crunchy with just a hint of soft potato flesh these little numbers didn’t last long.
There were a couple of dessert choices that were gluten free including the pineapple upside down cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Having four mouths to feed on the table allowed me to order one of each knowing anything I couldn’t eat would still get eaten.
The pineapple cake was very moist and accompanied some poached pineapple and extra virgin olive oil ice cream that is made in house. The extra virgin flavour in the ice cream was not too over powering to be unpleasant and gave a pleasant fruity end to the tongue.
The Boy gobbled up a substantial part of his cake before I could get a fork in edgewise which generally is a good sign coming from someone who claims to not like desserts. The tall disc of cake came in a puddle of chocolate sauce and honeycomb pieces with honeycomb ice cream. I had a couple of mouthfuls and thought it was a little dry for my liking.
As both the Boy and I tend to work long hours, it isn’t often that we get to spoil either of our parents and it was totally worth it to see the beaming faces at the end of it all. To help all the food excesses digest we took a relaxing stroll along the coastline together and longed for the day to never end.
Il Lido was even better than we expected given our excellent experiences at Duende and variable meals at Gordon Street Garage. They have successfully emulated a casual beach side vibe yet serve stunning Italian “peasant” food that left the in-laws very impressed. I can guarantee we will be back.Il Lido Italian Canteen 88 Marine Parade, Cottesloe, WA 6011 | (08) 9286 1111 | illido.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-20, Mains $28-42) Food: 4.5/5 (focuses on simple Italian dishes with local, seasonal produce) Service: 4/5 (helpful with allergy choices, accommodating with alterations, full of smiles) Ambience: 3.5/5 (noisy but that is part of the atmosphere, indoor and outdoor options) Drinks: 4/5 (comprehensive wine list with many interesting Italian and Aussie options to suit all prices) Total: 16/20
I moved into the Vic Park area nearly twenty years ago when I was a young, whipper-snapper uni student. As is often the case when living in shared housing, I never really stayed in one location for long. I dotted about the neighbourhood in a number of houses until the Boy and I finally settled down and bought our own home. Over the years, it has been exciting watching my suburb’s growth and development and it has become a place that its residents are now fiercely proud of. One of the best things that I love about Vic Park are our many options for dining out. We are totally spoilt for choice with literally the A to Z of international cuisine on our doorstep in addition to some modern wine bars and pubs. One of the recent newcomers to the café strip is Grill’d Victoria Park burger bar.
Grill’d burgers have been around since 2004 and have grown from humble beginnings of a single Hawthorn store in Victoria to now being found across Australia in over 50 stores. To help promote their new Vic Park store, I was kindly invited to come and enjoy a round of burgers on the house. This was the first time I had visited a burger bar with the Boy since his conversion to a plant based diet and I was curious to see his opinion on their vegetarian burgers. He is a hard man to please when it comes to burgers and is surprisingly critical. If he liked their burgers, I figure they must be good.
After nearly half an hour wait we still hadn’t received our meals and I enquired with one of the friendly wait staff. Within seconds she returned to our table blushing red with embarrassment and apologetically explained that for some reason our order got lost in the computer system. Her apology was promptly followed by the manager zooming to our table to do the same.
Within minutes our burgers and chips arrived along with further apologies. The Boy ordered the “Garden Goodness” on a regular bun. This burger contained a thick, soft veggie patty with beetroot, tasty cheese, avocado, salad, relish and finished with herbed mayo.
Impressing somebody who has been eating meat their whole life with a meatless vegetarian burger was always going to be a challenge. The Boy stopped eating meat for environmental, health and animal welfare reasons, not because he didn’t like the taste! I knew that this was going to be the testing moment and within seconds of taking his first bite I could see this was a winner. Packed full of flavour but without attaining an obscene height; the Garden Goodness is a veggie burger for even the most seasoned meat eater.
I had been feeling a little low on my iron levels recently and craved a real beef burger. Also being in the mood for a bit of spice I tried the “Hot” mama which contained a grilled grass fed lean beef patty, roasted peppers, dill pickle, tasty cheese, tzatziki, salad and a kick of Harissa paste. Of course I chose mine with the gluten free bun option.
Now those of you dear readers who are like me and cannot tolerate gluten in their diets, you will empathise the plethora of terrible gluten free bread out there. It has the tendency to have the texture of cake and often crumbles to pieces under the strain of weight and juices from a good burger.
While many gluten free buns disintegrate to mush at the half way mark or even sooner, I found that Grilld’s gluten free buns held good shape despite my burger having an abundance of sauce and juiciness. It remained so “normal” that I became doubtful that it was genuinely gluten free bread. I called our waitress over to that table double check that they hadn’t made another mistake only to sheepishly find I was totally wrong, it was definitely gluten free. A little embarrassing!
Finally, Grill’d hot chips deserve a mention. These thick cut chips are sprinkled with a very addictive herb mix that makes you feel like you are eating at somewhere a bit more upmarket than just your local burger joint. The chips were piping hot, crunched loudly yet were fluffy and soft on the inside. This could be dangerous being so close to my front door.
To ensure to myself that our order stuff up was just a once off teething issue, the Boy and I returned on a couple of occasions incognito without my glaringly obvious SLR camera in hand and found there to be no further delays or issues with our orders. We have found both their burgers and salads consistently enjoyable and will continue to return.Grill’d Victoria Park 895 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park WA 6101 | (08) 9355 1000 | www.grilld.com.au Chompchomp dined as a guest of Grill’d Vic Park. As it is too hard to be 100% subjective with a complementary meal I will refrain from giving a review or score and will purely just document my experience.
All of my direct family members reside over on the eastern coast of Australia; my Mum and Stepdad live in Adelaide and my Dad and Stepmum are in Melbourne. This means we only spend Christmas with them every couple of years as for both of us to get time off from work every year is impossible. Our flight over is always totally horrid with the plane invariably being filled with screaming babies, flustered hostesses and stressed out passengers. In stark contrast upon our arrival, we are always met with a cheerful, bustling household of family festivities and despite the path to get there being bumpy it is always totally worth it. Rockpool Perth
After all our travel in the last twelve months, for this Christmas we chose to stay in our home town of Perth. By some unfortunate luck I awoke on Christmas Day morning with the flu; with sandpaper golf balls in my throat and every muscle in my body cramping like I had just run a marathon. By the time Boxing Day came round I was exhausted and ready for a day on the couch with the cats and a good movie. However my husband thought differently and proceeded to try to entice me off the couch and out of my pyjamas using a carrot and stick approach. The carrot was a spontaneous lunch at Rockpool. And how am I supposed to say no to to THAT!? Rockpool Perth
With good intentions in further attempts to help me shake off my illness the Boy proposed that we walk from our house to the Crown Casino. It was only the day before that I was struggling to break a fever and barely able to stay awake yet I foolishly agreed to this idea. It’s only about a thirty minute walk but by the time we arrived at the Casino my skin was pale and clammy and my head was spinning. We took a seat in the Crown Metropole foyer to allow me to catch my breath whilst we gazed on at the mesmerizing giant sized, sparkling Christmas tree and reindeer. Christmas lights have a way of always making me feel better. Once I had recuperated and gained some colour back in my cheeks, we walked over to Rockpool’s entrance, swung back their familiar enormous wooden doors and walked down their candle lit corridor.
We have dined at Rockpool a number of times yet I have only blogged about our meal at Melbourne’s Rockpool. Our Perth experiences have been either pre-Chompchomp days or in large groups where I felt it would be rude to interrupt the pleasure of everyone’s evening with a photo shoot. Whilst some of my close friends get right into my blogging activities it isn’t something I would want to force upon people I don’t know well.
For the first time I was very surprised and delighted to be offered gluten free bread. The lack of this on previous visits has always surprised me given the calibre of Rockpool and I am so chuffed that they can now provide this. We ordered a bunch of entrees to be all brought out together to share. The kitchen had no problems whatsoever ensuring everything was gluten free so that I could enjoy it all. The Boy insisted on drinking a red wine so we also shared a bottle of the Trapeze Pinot Noir 2011 from the Yarra Valley. This wine was light with just enough sweetness to accompany the seafood yet still had a bit of body to match with our steak tartare.
The Alaskan King Crab was served roughly shredded into a summery salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes and jalapenos and a tangy coriander and lime dressing. The crab was so succulent and sweet it nearly felt like we were eating dessert. And by the way, there is nothing wrong with starting a meal with dessert.
There are two key dishes that I highly recommend ordering if you are dining at Rockpool. The first dish is their oven roasted pumpkin and sweet potato with burnt butter and garlic yoghurt. You can read about this dish on my Melbourne Rockpool post. The second dish of considerable note is Neil Perry’s signature steak tartare. Now if you are in any way irked by the concept of eating raw beef, this is the best place to come to try it for the first time. They use the freshest and finest mince beef, ground it to a velvety soft texture and then simply mix it with capers, onions and herbs. Previously I have asked for the onion to be omitted due to my fructose malabsorption but this time round I wanted the full flavour even if I knew I would suffer a bit afterwards. And once again this dish did not disappoint.
Steak tartare is served traditionally with fries however Rockpool serve it with their incredible fat chips. After being sorely disappointed recently with the fat chips served at The Trustee, these potato babies were not only a dollar cheaper if you ordered them as a side on their own, there were all the right layers of texture for a good chip; from a crisp thin outer to a creamy centre.
To add a bit of healthy greens and fibre into our otherwise very protein heavy meal we ordered the house chopped salad which our waiter dressed for us table side.
Finely chopped leafy greens, red cabbage, chorizo and tomatoes were tossed in with chickpeas, fresh mint and radish. The salad was crunchy fresh and cleansed the palate after eating the more heavy tartare and chips allowing me to thoroughly enjoy our last choice.
Our final selection was the West Australian marron. Asian flavours predominated in this flavourful dish with slices of moist mango, fresh young coconut, pickled ginger and hair strands of chilli and lime. There was a decent amount of marron meat to share leaving us very satisfied with surprisingly no more room left for dessert. I blame that on my damn flu bug although the fact we had spent the whole previous day eating may have also played a factor. 😉
On previous visits to Rockpool Perth we have sometimes found their service to be a bit hit and miss. On this occasion we were pleased to receive very polished and friendly service. Our glasses never remained empty nor did our bread plates. It is fabulous to see that not only have they improved this inconsistency front of house but they have also embraced us gluten free folk by now offering gluten free bread. We are getting more and more spoilt for choice for fine dining in Perth but Rockpool will remain one of our key establishments for a quality night out.
Rockpool Crown PerthCrown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 6252 1900 | www.rockpool.com/rockpool-bar-and-grill-perth Price: $$$$ (Entrees $20-37, Mains $25-120) Food: 4.5/5 (focusing on WA produce with no qualms about food intolerances) Service: 4.5/5 (bubbly, friendly and attentive) Ambience: 3.5/5 (the dining floor now overlooks the newly built car park) Drinks: 5/5 (who can fault their comprehensive wine list? You just need some time to read through it!) Total: 17.5/20
Gourmet Escape is a three-day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. It attracts foodies from all around the country and the world in order to feast on the finest this region has to offer. The core part of the festival is centred on the Gourmet Village which is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate. I have written a full account of our experience at the Gourmet Village here.
Throughout the indulgent weekend there are also a number of satellite events held featuring world-famous chefs and offering experiences such as long table lunches, luxurious dinners and even pop up beach barbecues. These events sell out in a flash and for those who are keen, be sure to get yourselves on the pre-sale lists to avoid missing out. The day that all the key tickets were released for sale I was working a full day with a busy schedule so I left all our purchasing up to the Boy. One of our many compatibilities is our love for food so I trusted he would make some good decisions. His choices included two of the Food For Thought Sessions held at the picturesque Voyager Estate grounds.
Our first session was with the amazing duo of Heston Blumenthal and Harold Mc Gee titled “The Science of Cooking”. It was a glorious day with clear blue skies and as we walked onto the brilliant green grounds the wafting aromas of freshly brewed coffee teased our senses. It wasn’t before long we both had one in hand; a short mac for me and a latte for the Boy.
But in all honesty coffee schmofy; who needs coffee when you can have a freshly shaken grape juice cocktail? I knocked back my macchiato in a flash so that I could graciously accept our next round of beverage! With glass in hand we entered into the elegant, chandelier decorated marquee and found our way to our table.
Our waitress made a careful effort to identify the people with pre-notified dietary requirements on our table including the Boy’s vegetarian request and my gluten free. My morning tea included three components. The first morsel was called Spring in a Jar and contained thick avocado cream cheese with miniature vegetables and olive powder.
The second portion on my plate was a slice of delicately tender Margaret River Wagyu sirloin with oyster mushrooms and a horseradish emulsion. The original version of this was served on a crostini which they replaced with a gluten free rice cracker for me. The final component was an egg omelette rolled up with wakame seaweed and sweet Shark Bay Blue Swimmer crab meat.
For the Boy’s vegetarian option the Wagyu was omitted and he was given a larger serve of oyster mushroom with the horse radish emulsion and his wakame egg roll omitted the crab meat.
It was entertaining listening to Heston and Harold talk, I believe they are close personal friends and have both in turn inspired each other’s careers. Whilst Heston was charming and humorous, I found Harold’s scientific approach to understanding the techniques used for cooking very interesting and he has motivated me to return to reading his enormously thick book “McGee on Food & Cooking” that I own at home on the shelf.
Desserts weren’t served until the talk had well and truly finished and by this point many attendees had to whisk away to attend their next foodie event. A perfect cube of Bahen & Co chocolate gateaux was just enough for about two mouthfuls and was adapted to be gluten free for me by omission of the ganache topping. I’m glad we had the time to stick around as this decadent treat literally melted in the mouth.
Our second Food for Thought session on the following day was with Miles Irving, Alex Atala and Matt Wilkinson and was titled “The Call of the Wild – Insects, weeds and the food of the future”. It was no surprise to me that the Boy chose us a session about eating bugs. Remember his insect devouring obsession in Thailand? He ate them at every opportunity that he could find.
This session was better organised than the previous day with both coffees and cocktails in abundance and the service even more polished and attentive. The food and drinks were created by the kitchen team from Morries Anytime. On arrival we were offered glasses of “Billy’s Punch” to accompany cubes of apple liquor soaked canapés. I had planned ahead for any inadvertent fructose exposure and brought some glucose tablets in my handbag. I downed a few before helping myself to some boozy apple delights. The punch was made with a generous amount of Aperol, some Voyager bubbles, sparkling grape juice, home-made rhubarb syrup and fresh orange and strawberry and was far too drinkable for the early morning. I was appreciative of the much larger serving compared to the day before and if it wasn’t before twelve I could have easier had another.
The wait staff team were much more on the ball and shortly after being seated platters of food were brought to the tables. I was informed that I was able to eat the pork and parsley terrine topped with spiced plum chutney as it was gluten free. The mini burgers containing Notting Hill marron and truffle were not suitable and we were told to hold out as our replacements were on their way.
For my replacement the bun was exchanged for toasted gluten free bread. My resulting sandwich was stuffed full of marron and truffle flavour. What a decadent way to start the day!
The Boy sunk his teeth into his vegetarian option before I even had a chance to photograph it and then tried to recreate it in its untouched state by swizzling it round on his plate so I couldn’t see the chomp marks. I never thought I’d hear the day that he would moan in pleasure over a vego burger but this haloumi slider did the trick.
The talk did somewhat digress away from discussing the potentially unpalatable sounding specifics of eating insects and weeds and onto its more worldly implications in providing more sustainable locally grown seasonal produce. We were made to think about not only what foods we choose to eat, but how that food is produced and what potential impact its production has had on the world around us.
Our desserts were discretely served in the latter half of the talk allowing all attendees to enjoy it for this session. The Boy received Bahen & Co chocolate fudge with salted caramel popcorn.
For my gluten free version the fudge was replaced with a scoop of caramel ice cream and topped with the salted caramel popcorn and fresh strawberries.
I found both sessions very informative and interesting and am keen to attend them again next year. The food served each day was very locally orientated, of high quality and was able to be adapted for food allergies provided notice was given in advance. The amount of food was enough for a light morning tea leaving enough room to attend another event in the afternoon or evening without feeling stuffed to the brim.
The 2013 Gourmet Escape Food for Thought sessions cost $100 per person including food and drinks.Voyager Estate 41 Stevens Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9757 6354 | www.voyagerestate.com.au/the-estate/the-restaurant
The latter half of last year was emotionally and physically draining for me due to some major, yet to be resolved issues at my work. It is hard to believe that this year of rock bottom lows also contains what was undoubtedly THE best day of my life; my wedding day! I’ve resigned myself to accept that such extremes of ups and downs were simply what 2013 had in store for me. Such is life as they say.
In the lead up to Christmas our workload began to increase rapidly and with everything else that was going on around me I could feel myself close to a burnout. I took a proactive approach and booked a week of leave at the last minute to divert a mental disaster. During this week off I was invited to attend a Royal Canin seminar for a veterinary talk held at the Pan Pacific Hotel. Seeing as I didn’t have to work the next day I decided to catch a cab into the city so I could enjoy a few drinks courtesy of Royal Canin. When I let the Boy know of my plans, he kindly offered to drive me there instead and so we headed in a bit earlier to grab a bite to eat together.
Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House is only a couple of blocks walk away from the Pan Pacific and has been on my wish list for ages. The Head Chef Joel Valvasori and I follow each other on Twitter and Instagram and I have already suffered several episodes of food envy from looking at his drool worthy food photos.
We entered Lalla Rookh via their side entrance through the wine store which I initially thought was actually the whole restaurant. As we continued to walk through to the bar area I was surprised at each turn how big the place is. Their venue spans over multiple different areas including an open bar area, a lounge area, a sun lit courtyard and a more romantic, formal dining room. They serve an all-day menu which is a useful fact to know if you happen to be hungry and stuck in the city in that in-between time after lunch and before dinner.
We were on a strict short time frame with less than an hour to order, eat and be on our way. Their menu was filled with loads of gluten free options including pizza so I was spoilt for choice. When I placed our order I informed our waitress we only had limited time and she was very accommodating with this. We ordered a collection of little share dishes starting off with the freshly shucked oysters. I am usually a traditionalist when it comes to my oysters; they just need to be super fresh, natural and naked with just a squeeze of lime. Each of these oysters were topped with some icy cold cucumber chilli granita and salmon roe but even to my critical, purist tastebuds this combination was a delight.
A hint of sweet, a hint of spice and a mouthful of creamy fresh oysterness. Perfection.
I was literally gobsmacked to see that all their pizzas were gluten free. There wasn’t just a gluten free OPTION; the Chef decided boldly that ALL the pizzas would be available as either standard or gluten free. I LOVE this guy! I figured it would be totally negligent of me to not order one to try. Simple but tasty our pizza was topped with tomato sugo, olives, Sicilian anchovies and blobs of luscious melted fior de latte, a type of fresh mozzarella. The base wasn’t doughy tasting and held its form until the last bite.
To balance out the less healthy option of pizza I made the token gesture of ordering us some salad. We are still in asparagus season here in Perth and whilst I cannot go nuts on this vegetable due to its moderate fructans content, I find I can tolerate a small amount without any issues. The asparagus spears were soft without being soggy and served with a softly boiled egg and shavings of Trentingrana which is a hard Italian cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Our final and relatively random choice was the baked fior de latte stuffed lemons with Sicilian anchovies. The obvious way to eat these lemons was to squeeze the ooey-gooey cheesy stuffing out with our teeth and leave the rind. For some reason however, I blame it on my foggy state of mind, I decided to try eating them whole including the rind and skin. The Boy looked on in surprise and found my resulting facial expressions somewhat entertaining. Although quite chewy, I strangely enough didn’t actually mind eating the entire thing although I doubt I could eat my way through two.
As I quickly looked at the clock I estimated we just had enough time (and room) to fit in dessert. There were a couple of gluten free options but the pannacotta vera with roasted cocoa and walnut crumble got my attention. Perfectly jiggly and smooth, this traditional Italian dessert was executed in its true glory. The sugar kick snapped me out of my depressive slumber for long enough to be chaperoned by the Boy on my power walk down to the Hotel for my seminar.
We were both left pleasantly surprised with our experience at Lalla Rookh. Having only got to try a few of their share dishes, my interest for them has definitely strengthened and I look forward to returning for a more formal meal in the future.Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House Lower Ground, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 7077 | www.lallarookh.com.au Price: $$ (Small bites $4-16, Mains $25-38) Food: 4/5 (well versed in gluten free, could consider sourcing GF bread) Service: 4/5 (quick, efficient and super friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (pick your own ambience! There is an area for everyone!) Drinks: 4.5/5 (some interesting Australian and International wines by the glass or bottle) Total: 16.5/20
My past experience of Korean food has been limited to the typical BBQ style restaurants that have been spotted around Perth for years. As most of these places heavily marinate their meats in soy based sauces I have avoided them because I presumed my gluten free options would be limited. When I received an invitation from Head Chef Leo to dine at his new Korean restaurant The Gaya Applecross, I came very close to dismissing this offer as a waste of my time. Luckily before doing so, I had a quick look at their menu and was blown away to see not only were there many gluten free options but over 80% of the menu was in fact gluten free!
The Gaya Applecross is tucked away in a cluster of restaurants on Kearns Crescent off Riseley Street in Ardross. We visited them on a week night and arrived to find the higgledy piggledy parking area packed to the brim. I would dread to see how busy it looks on the weekend. There was a surprising hive of activity about and on a brief glance into some of the other restaurants I noticed that they all looked relatively full of customers. The Gaya is BYO which allowed us to bring one of the many bottles of wine we recently splurged on during our recent two Margaret River trips. We chose a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from Clairault Winery as I figured its medium bodied flavour and subtle oak would be a fair match to the very beef orientated menu.
Before ordering we were given a complementary serve of rice pancake. I noticed that other tables around me also received this complementary dish so this freebie is standard for all customers. With a thin crisp exterior and a chewy soft centre these triangular nibbles were a perfect teaser for what was to come next.
After ordering a succession of starter dishes, our food soon began coming out one by one and was always presented with a warming smile. The salmon gravlax was an interesting fusion of Korean and European ingredients. Leo informed me they marinate the fish for at least 48 hours in a mixture of gin and plum juice. Topped with tobiko-laced mayo and capers and nestled between spoonfuls of wakame each mouthful was extremely rich in flavour.
Being gluten free, it is not often that I get to enjoy arancini balls. The standard varieties of these Italian canapés are generally crumbed in wheat flour meaning it’s off the menu for me. Of the few I have had gluten free; it seems that it is hard to achieve the classic hard crunchy shell coupled with a creamy cheesy risotto centre. For these arancini, Chef Leo mastered getting the all-important textures right despite restricting himself to only using gluten free flours. I loved the unusual mix of Italian and Korean flavours of basil pesto risotto rice, pan-fried kimchi and dollops of sweet berry sauce. If we hadn’t already ordered so much food I could have eaten a couple more.
Luckily I didn’t because I had already gotten a little carried away and ordered a LOT of the gluten free starters already. In my defence, I am not used to visiting Asian restaurants and being so spoilt for choice. The next starter we tried was the beef cream roll which was another Westernised version of a Korean cold beef roll salad. Thinly sliced, marinated beef was wrapped carefully around spears of asparagus, capsicum, cucumber, enoki mushrooms and cream cheese and topped with crisp garlic chips.
Japchae is a traditional Korean street food made of sweet potato noodles stir fired in sesame oil with various vegetables and sometimes also beef. The Gaya presented this dish a little differently by wrapping the noodles along with beef, carrot and mushroom in rice paper and then re-frying them to make them into some sort of fat dumpling.
Despite their reasonable size they were still easy to eat and really tasty. This was one of my favourite starters.
After the excitement of the previous starters, the fish jijimi was probably my least favourite entrée. This dish consisted of fillets of cod lightly battered in glutinous rice flour and served with soy mayo. The fish was light and fluffy but the dish lack the punchy originality that was present in all our previous offerings.
I was nearly at full capacity by this point having shared no less than six starters and half a bottle of wine. I could have easily got away with squeezing in a shared main and dessert with the Boy but he had a keen appetite and insisted on ordering his own main. While agonising over our choices, we were given another complementary little dish as a palate cleanser. The items on this dish are changed regularly to keep it interesting so don’t expect to be served the same as me if you visit. We received some spicy tomato, pickled cabbage with apple and a ball of grated cooked sweet potato.
There weren’t any vegetarian main options for the Boy to choose from and as he isn’t a totally strict vegetarian he opted for the “36 Pork”. Rather than serving a pork crackling-encrusted style of porky dish that features on so many menus both Asian and Western; the Gaya do things a little different. The whole pork belly is marinated for 12 hours before being cooked sous-vide for a further 24 hours. The end result is near translucent, delicate pork flesh that is as soft as jelly. It was paired with sweet potato puree, glazed apple and smears of fermented soy bean paste. I hadn’t tried soy bean paste before however I have since learnt that it is one of the most commonly used condiments in authentic Korean cuisine.
The dish was topped with roasted garlic chips and a Korean chive salad. Korean chives are shorter and thicker than those found in Western dishes and are added to many Korean dishes for their claimed health properties. Traditional Korean herbal medicine will use chives for strengthening liver function, improving circulation, relieving back pain and treating colds and other ailments. Leo explained that he includes the chives in his dishes in order to provide his customers with these health benefits.
I ordered the “TTeokgalbi”, a dish taken from the Korean Royal court cuisine that is centred on beef rib patties. The meat from beef spare ribs is minced and marinated before being grilled on the hot plate. It was served with a variety of different yet interesting elements including some chewy, cinnamon dusted rice cakes that somewhat reminded me of the honey puffs we used to buy from the Greek stall as a child in the Adelaide Centre Markets.
Other elements in my TTeokgalbi included a scoop of smooth, creamy yoghurt potato salad and some rubbery pickled oyster mushrooms. The pickled mushrooms were stuffed with cucumber and capsicum and I nearly mistook them for some sort of dumpling. They had a strong sour taste that wasn’t entirely unpleasant and balanced the sweet and spicy elements nicely. The whole unusual creation was topped with a sunny side up fried egg. All the different components in my dish certainly kept me amused however I did feel the beef didn’t taste any more remarkable than any other well-made patty I’ve had.
On the home straight and truly stretched at the seams we had another look at the menu to order one dessert each. This really was gluttony in its extreme. All the dessert options were gluten free so we were free to share each other’s selections. I ordered the “Gaya Ho-Tuck” which was an elegant version of a type of pancake sold by street food vendors in Korea.
These small round nuggets are stuffed with brown sugar, sunflower seeds, peanuts and pine nuts and then deep fried. Before serving they are dusted with cinnamon and more sugar and torched to caramelise the surface to a near black colour. Soft and fluffy on the outside yet chewy, nearly gooey on the inside these were right up my alley and got snuffled up pretty quickly.
I had already fallen in love with the look of the “Red Misu” thanks to a number of fellow blogger’s beautiful photos so I encouraged the Boy to order himself this instead of his usual ice cream. This curious little dish is Chef Leo’s take on tiramisu with a neat little Korean twist. The sponge was still deeply seeped in Baileys and coffee as one would expect for a tiramisu but there was the surprise element of added red bean paste. The dessert was carefully presented in a miniature pot complete with chocolate soil and pebbles. Some may say this dish was simply too adorable to eat but its cuteness didn’t stop either of us further stuffing our faces despite our bulging waistlines.
I am always suspicious to make a conclusion about a restaurant on the basis of a free meal as the chef knows in advance he is under scrutiny. However looking around the fairly busy dining room I could see plenty of happy customers enjoying their paid experience.
The Gaya offers something a bit different to your standard sizzling Korean restaurant with softly spoken, efficient service, oodles of gluten free options and creative, carefully presented food. Add to that it’s BYO licence and you can be sure I will be bringing my friends back here for a satisfying but inexpensive night out.The Gaya Applecross Shop 3 & 4, 3 Kearns Crescent, Ardross WA | (08) 9364 8887 | www.the-gaya.com Chompchomp dined as a guest of The Gaya Applecross. As it is too difficult to be 100% subjective with a complementary meal I will refrain from giving a review or score and this is purely just a documentation of my experience.