A couple of months ago I attended a very motivating seminar by Darren Rowse the founder of Problogger. This was the first time he had come to Perth to share some of the secrets of his blogging successes. Having already attended two Eat Drink Blog conferences I was unsure what I could learn in one seminar yet I came away refreshed with loads of new ideas and approaches. I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the blogging community including one of my close friends Michelle from Foodie Cravings. After the seminar finished the two of us were keen to brainstorm a few ideas and the most logical way to inspire the two of us is with food. Wanting to go somewhere nearby I suggested we try Three Five Three in Wembley as I heard on the grapevine that they have free popcorn. And that is enough to draw my attention!
I was not to be disappointed. Every table was already adorned with a joyous bowl of freshly popped corn. I have a number of weaknesses and my addiction to popcorn is not something I hide very well. I have been known on countless occasions to eat whole bags in one sitting and I am on a first name basis with the gourmet popcorn company Hot Pot Popcorn purely because I buy it so often. Three Five Three’s popcorn was lightly salted without any fancy flavouring but this still hit the spot for me regardless. Especially when it’s for free.
The menu is very gluten free friendly with a number of options for both entrées and mains. Michelle is a very easy-going person to dine out with and she is always happy limit herself to the gluten free dishes so we can share. We started with the minted haloumi served with smoked chipotle and a zesty salsa. The haloumi slices were grilled lightly and squeaked delightfully with every bite.
Upon the chef’s recommendation we also tried the bruschetta made using gluten free corn bread that the chef had only just baked earlier that morning. I enjoyed the bread’s doughy texture however I am obviously quite accustomed to the ups and downs of gluten free bread. Michelle wasn’t as excited by the corn bread and was happy for me to finish the dish off.
Since the Boy moved to eating a plant-based diet I sometimes find myself craving protein when I’m out and about. For my main dish I ordered the Hideaway Bay Tasmanian salmon served lightly pan seared on top of a nicoise salad of potatoes, olives and green beans. A spoonful of uplifting fennel and lemon salsa further brightened this happy dish leaving me with a lovely clean feeling on my palate. My salmon steak was a rich dark pink colour on the inside resulting in a silky smooth texture.
Michelle ordered the chilli mussels which was served in a South-eastern Asian style as opposed to the usual tomato based sauce often used. A light coconut cream broth flavoured with lemongrass and chilli emitted beautiful fragrant aromas across the table. With a smile on her face I could see it was just what she needed.
I have some friends that can be overwhelmed by the amount of food I have a tendency to order in restaurants but thankfully Michelle is not one of them and like me she always has room for dessert. We shared the Leatherwood honey pannacotta served with blood orange lychee granita and tangy mandarin sherbet. I absolutely loved the added surprise of pop rocks, really I am just a big kid at heart.
As we both walked back to our cars I was gobsmacked to see how late it has become. Neither of us had stopped to take a breath for hours, with both of us alternating between talking at one hundred miles an hour and stuffing our faces. I love that we are always on the same page and I am certain it won’t be long before we do it again!Three Five Three 353 Cambridge Street, Wembley WA 6014 | (08) 9387 5252 | www.threefivethree.com.au
Despite living in Western Australia for nearly twenty years I am ashamed to admit that I have never journeyed further north than the seaside town of Dongara to visit my Bestie. Whenever I plan a holiday, the centre point of our activities is always based around experiencing the food of the places we visit. I didn’t feel any foodie gravitational pull coming from this region of Australia imagining it to be not much more than white sandy beaches, cattle ranches and red expanses of desert. The Boy on the other hand is a huge advocate of the North West and has tried to encourage me to go for years. He was over the moon to hear I was chosen to be the Gascoyne regional blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish competition. He knew this would finally be the reason we could go up there together and he was convinced that I would love it.
After a number of hurdles tried to prevent us reaching our destination including missing a flight and battling a storm, we were incredibly relieved to finally drive into the pretty town of Carnarvon. Our first day was hectically busy with duties for the WA Signature Dish regional final which left our second day free to explore the area. With some help from the locals we managed to go on an extended version of the Gascoyne Food Trail; one unlike any other food trail I have gone on. Cast away images of your previous experiences visiting multiple tourist driven sites stocked with samples of artisan gourmet goods. Instead, this self-drive tour will give you a paddock to plate experience of the Gascoyne as you discover the region’s produce in its raw and naturally fresh state.
Our first stop for the morning was located down on Snapper Jetty to watch one of the local Abacus crab boats come in with their catch. Abacus Fisheries is a family run business owned by Peter Jecks and his wife. Living locally in Carnarvon Peter has been in the industry for over 20 years. Despite such a long time in the crab trade, he remains fiercely passionate being highly focused on producing a quality product in addition to proactively supporting the environmental sustainability of his fishing practices.
Peter is well known amongst Australia’s high profile foodies having featured on a number of television programs including Postcards WA and SBS’s Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia. I was very interested to hear that not a single part of the crab is wasted. The water that is used to cook the crab meat gets packaged and sold as crab stock in gourmet food stores. Even the shell is compounded to use as chitin in the medical industry for a number of applications including the manufacture of the dressings used as a second skin for burn victims.
That day, it turned out to be our lucky morning because not only did we get to see the crab fisherman come in with their haul, but we had timed our visit with one of the local fishing boats Cygnet Lass returning from a four day stint at sea.
This fishing boat provided the day’s fresh fish to Pickles Point Seafood which is located just doors down from Abacus crabs. Pickles Point is run by Gayle Dewar, one of our WA Signature dish contestants and they are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood.
Gayle was kind enough to take me behind the scenes where I saw a beautiful 3kg Red Emperor fish get neatly filleted in the blink of an eye with perfect precision. I made a mental note that next time upon our return to the region, we need to ensure arrange accommodation complete with a kitchenette! I would have loved to have bought some Red Emperor and cooked it up for dinner.
After a morning of photographing delicious fresh seafood, the two of us were desperate to grab a quick snack before we headed out onto the plantations. Harbourside Cafe is located along the same stretch of road as the fishing boat jetties so we ducked in there for a bite to eat. It has the vibe of a beach side fish and chip shop with simple décor and no table service. Their menu is literally pages long with an eclectic mix of local and imported seafood in addition to some Indian and Thai styled curries.
Avoiding the cheaper imported fish dishes, I chose the grilled Carnarvon snapper fillet served with salad and chips. The chef was happy to cook the chips in fresh oil to avoid any gluten contamination. My snapper was an enormous serve of two big fillets and I would have preferred a smaller size at a cheaper price. The fish was soft and flaked apart delicately under my fork.
The Boy ordered the crab cakes and prawn nori rolls. The crab cakes were topped with fresh prawns and a sweet chilli sauce. Obviously not being gluten free I didn’t try them but the Boy said they had a satisfying crunchy exterior with a creamy centre however didn’t have a lot of flavour.
The nori rolls were served deep fried which we both thought was quite curious. Stuffed with fresh prawns, seaweed and capsicum these non-traditionalist snacks were a novelty worth trying at least once.
Refuelled and ready for more exploring we headed out to the ring road affectionately known as the “fruit loop” by locals. The area is filled with fruit and vegetable plantations growing a wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs. The first stop heading out of town was Morel’s Orchard. Run by the absolutely lovely Jean and Doris Morel, this plantation is open to the public seven days a week including public holidays. Who needs a farmers market when you can buy your produce direct from the farmer? Honestly, it was like a dream come true for me!
Morel’s fruits were all so supersized and delicious looking but the most interesting of them all was the black sapote, or chocolate pudding fruit. This fruit is a species of persimmon with a yellow green inedible skin. The centre of the ripe fruit is a dark chocolate colour with the creamy texture of, yes you guessed it, chocolate pudding.
In addition to growing many seasonal fruits, the Morel’s property has row upon row of herbs and other vegetables growing lusciously. Everything looked so well-manicured and cared for as if it was just their own personal backyard veggie patch, but on a much larger scale. The Boy is an avid green thumb and his dream isn’t to be able to buy direct from farmers like me, but more so to be able to have his own veggie patch of this grand scale and get his veggies from his own backyard.
As we thanked Jean and Doris for their hospitality, Doris insisted that we try some of their chocolate coated frozen fruit before we left. I am so glad we did! Forget about Magnum ice-cream, these Morel freezer sweets are worth the visit in their own right. We struggled to choose which ones to eat and ended up greedily grabbing far too many; trying the chocolate coated black sapote, the custard apple, banana and strawberries along with some frozen mango. The smooth black sapote was definitely our favourite with the banana coming a close second.
Whilst many of you may never have heard of a chocolate pudding fruit before, you will be more familiar with one of Carnarvon’s biggest exports to Perth; the banana. I was grateful that Sweeter Banana’s business manager Doriana was happy to take some time out from her busy day to show us through the banana packing facility.
The Boy and I have had many a debate at home over which bananas are better; I love the smaller, sweeter ones and he prefers the picture perfect enormous ones. Whenever he does the grocery shopping he will always come home with the biggest bananas he can find which inevitably results in complaints from me because I think they taste powdery and bland. What I didn’t know was why this is the case.
Doriana was a proud advocate of the smaller banana which is characteristic of the Carnarvon-grown fruit. Their smaller size and better taste is all due to the different climate of the Gascoyne region in comparison to tropical North Queensland where the larger bananas come from. Carnarvon’s weather tends to be hot and dry having a much lower humidity level. The low humidity means that their crops do not suffer from the diseases and pests seen in the tropics making their produce pesticide free.
Because of these weather conditions, the banana plantations have to plant their trees much closer together than in the tropics. This creates a continuous canopy with the tree’s leaves which helps protect the fruit from the burning rays of the sun. As a result the bananas have a much longer growing time resulting in a smaller but much sweeter fruit. Next time you are buying bananas, look for the lunchbox sized versions and you can taste the difference for yourself. I am happy to say I have converted the Boy to eating our local WA sweeter bananas now!
Our final stop on the fruit loop was at the home store on Bumbak’s plantation. This plantation owner had become frustrated with the amount of good fruit she had to throw away year after year just because it wasn’t up to the commercial standard despite the fact it was perfectly fine to eat.
She created a way to value add to this large component of her harvest by making a variety of jams, sauces and marinades. Many of her natural home made products are gluten free and have won a long list of Awards at the Perth Royal Show. We grabbed a couple of jars to take home to try including her banana jam and some Thai coconut chilli marinade.
Heading back into town there is a cute little place worth mentioning called River Gums Café that is marked on the Gascoyne Food trail. It regrettably did not have a lot to offer gluten free so we didn’t stop there for a bite to eat but it is a very pretty location to stop for afternoon tea for those less restricted with their diets.
The last stop on the Gascoyne Food trail is “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
Until very recently you could buy yourself a drink and an ice cream from the Guardsmans’ Van kiosk to enjoy on your jetty walk. With the opening of the new Interpretive Centre, the kiosk has now been closed as it has been replaced with the One Mile Restaurant in the Centre. This restaurant was the location for our WA Signature Dish regional final. On the day of the final, the chef of One Mile Restaurant and I got chatting and I was excited to hear she plans to accommodate for gluten free customers. The restaurant was opening that week and I offered to return in order to try one of her first gluten free cake creations.
I’m glad we made the effort to return. She made a super moist orange almond cake that was different to your usual almond meal based cake. She included some gluten free flour to make it lighter and fluffier. Suffice to say I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it and the Boy who is “not a dessert person” was very happy to help me finish my generous slice. He even said it didn’t taste gluten free! Winning!
As we drove back to our hotel, the Boy looked over at me very satisfied with himself.
“Am I right?” he asked me.
All these years I had dismissed ideas of a trip up North with the perception that there was nothing up here that would interest me. Swallowing my pride humbly there was no way I could refute him; this is a place in Western Australia that every foodie needs to visit.
Gascoyne Food Trail | www.gascoynefood.com.au Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard | Facebook Lot H Harbour Road, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4078 | Open Mon-Sat from 9am-5pm (closed Jan-Feb) Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook Morel’s Orchard 486 Robinson Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8368 | Open 7 days (incl. PH) from 8.30am-5.30pm Sweeter Banana Cooperative Carnarvon | (08) 9941 9100 | www.sweeterbanana.com Bumbak’s at Terra Temptations 449 North River Road, Carnarvon, WA | 0409 377 934 Available at IGA Cottesloe River Gums Café Turn at the Big Banana on Robinson Street then it 34 Margaret R.O.W., Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8281 | Open Wed-Sunday from 10am-3pm during May to October www.carnarvonheritage.com.au The Precinct is open daily from 9am-5pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
Being gluten free and having a mostly vegetarian husband, Korean restaurants are not usually our type of thing. From my experience it is a type of cuisine that tends to use marinades containing gluten and will also have a lot of meat based dishes. At the beginning of the year I was invited to visit The Gaya in Applecross where I was amazed at the number of gluten free options on their menu. I got so excited I nearly ordered everything and struggled to sleep that night as I had eaten way too much. It was a fabulous night out with the food exceeding our expectations in both its presentation and taste. We both agreed we should make plans to return but never actually got around to doing it. Six months later Gaya’s Head Chef Leo invited me to return back to his restaurant to try a few of his new dishes.
In contrast to our previous visit, the restaurant was much busier with most tables booked and the lights dimmed to create a more ambient atmosphere. I scanned over the menu and noted there were still a reasonable number of gluten free dishes available however a few that were previously gluten free were no longer so including the arancini. I enquired to Leo the reason for this and he informed me that he has had difficulty obtaining gluten free panko crumbs. Such a shame as his arancini were really good! Never mind, we were here to try the new dishes and not stuff our faces with favourites of the past!
Our first dish was the grilled tofu with homemade kimchi. The tofu was silken soft with the texture of egg custard. The kimchi was mild without too much kick in it much to the relief of the Boy who can get quite grumpy if I order spicy food that he cannot eat.
Our second starter was yook jijimi, a type of beef pancake. Thin slices of beef coated in glutinous rice flour and egg were fried and served with Korean garlic chives, crispy fried enoki mushrooms and roasted pine nut salt. In traditional Korean herbal medicine garlic chives are commonly used for a variety of benefits. Chef Leo loves adding them to many of his dishes to help give his customers “good health”.
For this visit to Gaya I managed to show much greater self-control and only ordered us three starters instead of the five that we ate last time. Our third starter was the beef brisket salad. Leo informed me that brisket is a popular cut of meat used in Korea however he has discovered it isn’t one commonly sold in Perth. He has managed to source his brisket from a specialised local Korean butcher. The brisket was sliced and lightly grilled to give a strangely buttery texture due to its high fat content. It was served with a mixed salad of mesclun leaves, tomato and cucumber. As the Boy doesn’t really eat much meat he left this one for me to enjoy.
To accompany our main meals we once again each received the complimentary side dish. This dish changes most evenings so regular customers won’t get the same dish twice. This night we were served Korean meatball with chopped tofu and vegetable, white kimchi and radish kimchi.
The Boy got little choice with selecting his meals as it was my goal was to try to order anything on the menu that fitted my two criteria; one that it was gluten free, and two that it was a new, yet to be tried dish. For our first main I ordered the grilled salmon.
The thick salmon steak had been marinated in yuzu allowing the flavours to penetrate right through the fillet. I prefer my salmon to be served rare and it was cooked a little bit past this point however still remained quite soft and flaky.
It accompanied a warm stack of vegetables including zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and enoki mushrooms with a polite sized ball of sticky coconut rice. The dish was an interesting balance of sweet and citrus ending with a spicy finish from the Korean chilli sauce drizzled over the top. The fusion of more Western styled vegetables with the remaining Korean components worked well to my relatively untrained palate.
Our second dish was the samgyetang; a type of ginseng chicken soup. Samgyetang is a dish commonly served in Korean during summer as it is claimed to help replenish the body with nutrients lost through sweating. A whole baby chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, red dates, garlic and ginger. Traditionally a number of medicinal herbs are also added to the broth.
Whilst this appeared to be a simple bowl of chicken soup, once I sipped the broth I realised what care had been taken in its preparation as the flavours were very nourishing and heart-warming. Whilst I struggled to imagine drinking this soup in the heat of summertime, I could easily picture myself snuggled up to the cats, sick in bed with the flu whilst sipping on this delicious medicine to aid my recovery.
As an interlude whilst we made room for dessert, we were given the second complementary dish of the evening. It was a serve of small shortbread-like biscuits that I correctly presumed not to be gluten free and left them for the Boy to nibble on. He told me the biscuit was nothing particularly special but I thought it was a nice touch for customers to receive something extra for free.
For dessert I caved and ordered the Gaya Ho-tuck, one of my favourites from our previous visit. Ho-tuck is a type of Korean pancake that is served by street food vendors in Korea. They consist of small pancakes made with glutinous rice flour and stuffed with brown sugar, sunflower seeds, peanuts and pine nuts before being deep-fried. The ho-tuck are then dusted in cinnamon and sugar before being torched to caramelise before serving. Not something I would recommended if you have a heart problem or diabetes, but for the rest of us a delightful treat.
The new dessert on the menu is the Gaya’s homemade Gold Pave chocolates. Three different flavours of homemade chocolates topped with flamboyant gold flakes certainly made a sparking bright end to the night. The three flavours were cacao, matcha and mixed grain.
The cacao and matcha flavours were gluten free but the mixed grain contained barley along with rice, bean, sesame and adlay (a type of millet). Leo advised me that he is likely to remove the barley from this in the future to make this third chocolate gluten free like the others.
It was wonderful to return to the Gaya once again and see that Chef Leo and his team’s hard work is paying off with a fully booked restaurant, an interesting and changing menu and very affordable dishes.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 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.
There are some people who come and go in your life. And then there are some people who make such an impact on you that no matter how far you are separated from them geographically, your friendship remains as strong as ever. My dear friend Melinda is easily the bravest person I have ever met. Aside from being a gorgeous person with a crazy sense of humour who is fiercely loyal to her friends AND a wonderful mother to her child, she was also born with cystic fibrosis. Over the course of her life, step by step her lung function deteriorated to the point that her home became the hospital ward located hours away from her husband and daughter on the Eastern coast of New South Wales. I was lucky enough to travel to Sydney on a business trip back in late 2011 and be able to spend every afternoon hanging out with her in the hospital whilst she sat out the long and scary wait on the transplant list. After several false alarms where the doctors called off the surgery at the last moment, she finally received her double lung transplant at a time when nearly all hope was lost.
Having been unable to travel anywhere other than back and forth from hospital, the newly found independence that has come with her shiny new lungs is enough to prick a tear in anyone’s eye. For the first time in over a decade, she was declared fit to fly and so she jumped on a plane with her family to return to her home town of Perth to visit loved ones. It was a whirlwind trip of catch ups with everybody and I was so chuffed to be lucky enough to score a lunch date slotted into her busy schedule. I was joined by the Boy and my dearest friends Amber who was one of my two beautiful bridesmaids from our wedding last year. The three of us have all known Melinda for over ten years.
We stopped in at Boheme Bar and Restaurant in the City as it was a convenient centre point for the four of us to meet. I knew the price of their meals were good value for those on a travelling budget and I checked to make sure there were a couple of gluten free options on the menu for me. For my lunch I chose the pan seared Huon salmon with roasted artichoke, asparagus and Roma tomatoes with an orange and rocket salad. Unfortunately my salmon steak was too dry and overcooked for my liking.
Amber loves her tasting platters so it was no surprise to me that she chose Boheme’s version. It came at excellent value with four lamb meatballs spiced with cumin, three vegetarian arancini, mergeuez sausage, some spinach and tzatziki dip and grilled haloumi. She was unable to finish it all and was happy to share it with the rest of us.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian option of the hara bhara kebab; an Indian dish made from potatoes, peas and spinach. It was served with pea purée, spinach, cottage cheese, chickpea curry and raita. A scoop of basmati rice and a soft prata was served on the side. He enjoyed all the interesting elements of his dish and was glad it wasn’t too spicy for him.
Melinda ordered a small sized pizza topped with Spanish chorizo, smoked ham, semi sun-dried tomatoes, marinated olives and pimentos. After decades of sickness and medications giving her the poorest appetite it brought a big smile to my face to see her healthily tuck into the whole pizza on her own. She finished the entire pizza without any need for help. It reminded me how easy it is to take such simple pleasures in life for granted, like something as being able to enjoy your food.
It was the first time I had met Melinda’s absolutely adorable daughter Luca yet thanks to Melinda’s talented photography I felt like I already knew her. Having grown up with a very sick mother, Luca had the maturity and sense of humour that spanned well beyond her natural age. What made me love her even more was that she had an extremely impressive appetite for such a little girl and made quick work of her toasted ham and cheese sandwich and fries.
There weren’t any gluten free desserts on the menu but as the Boy and I were heading out that night for dinner later that night I was happy to give sweets a miss. The rest of the table was keen however and ordered the rhubarb and apple crumble and the home-made sticky date pudding.
Judging by the nearly licked plates at the end I am guessing both these desserts hit the spot. Whilst we had sat in the sunshine for hours it had truly felt only like minutes and I couldn’t believe our time together was over. My sides ached from laughing so hard and I’m certain that my mascara had run underneath my big dark shades from the tears such laughter had brought. I didn’t want the afternoon to end but at least I know that this time the period between catch ups will be short.Thanks for an amazing albeit short afternoon Mel, so chuffed to finally meet Luca, you both totally rocked my world and I cannot wait for us to hang together soon. xxxxxxxxxxxx The Boheme Bar and Restaurant 300 Murray Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9338 5000 | www.theboheme.com.au Price: $$ (Entrees $12-22, Mains $17-38) Food: 2.5/5 (good variety of basic pub food, salmon could do with some loving) Service: 3/5 (minimal with no fuss) Ambience: 3/5 (dark, cooshy seats inside, large tables for groups in the sunshine outside) Drinks: 3/5 (simple range of wines and beers) Total: 11.5/20
I recently travelled up to the Northwest corner of Western Australia as the official blogger for the Gascoyne regional final in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. Having never visited this part of Australia before, I wanted to obtain a clear insight into its food industry in order to understand why they call themselves the “food bowl” of our State. The Boy and I flew in via Exmouth, collected ourselves a rental 4WD from the airport and drove straight to Carnarvon in the pouring rain to be ready to start early the next morning.
The competition event was held at One Mile Restaurant which is housed in the new Interpretive Centre facing out onto the historical One Mile Jetty in the Heritage Precinct. Whilst this ancient but well preserved jetty was constructed back in 1897, the accompanying restaurant was only built recently and hadn’t even officially opened! Their kitchen was so shiny and new creating a perfect work area for our four contestants to create their signature dishes. The fabulous four finalists for the Gascoyne region are Jerolina, Amy, Paul and Gayle. They all live in Carnarvon and show an obvious love for their home town and its amazingly vibrant produce.
The contestants weren’t scheduled to hit the stoves until mid-morning which gave Channel Seven’s Today Tonight camera team plenty of time to get loads of footage including getting individual interviews with each of them. Also joining the team was professional photographer Anton from Simply Designed, whose talent, skills and awesome equipment reminded me what a complete amateur I am with my little camera!
As each contestant was scuttled away for their private interviews, it gave me the chance to have a good chat with those remaining behind and learn more about what it is like living in Carnarvon and more importantly to plug them for suggestions on where to eat locally.
I was surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that despite being a town surrounded by an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetable plantations in addition to having access to some of the freshest seafood, many of the local eateries preferred to obtain cheaper imported ingredients in order to save on costs. Hopefully with highly publicized and well-run events like WA Signature Dish, it will help promote using local produce and this food culture will start to change. Certainly if the passion and enthusiasm of these four locals was anything to go by, it won’t be long before this happens.
Once all the contestant’s interviews were completed it was time for them to don their aprons and get down to business. Before officially commencing the cook-off, the region’s mentor chef Peter Manifis from InContro wished the contestants the best of luck before gesturing them into the kitchen.
Although the four in the kitchen were far too busy to stop and eat, the rest of us were getting pretty peckish. To our delight the newly appointed chef for One Mile Restaurant had kindly prepared a huge spread of food for us to snack on while we anxiously waited to see what the first dish would be. Our lunch included fresh sushi rolls, pumpkin soup, rice paper rolls, scones and a colourful fruit platter. When I chatted to the chef to find out what was gluten free, I was excited to hear she was a huge supporter in using her local produce and plans to promote this in her new restaurant once it opens.
Each contestant received their signature dish ingredients packed neatly in a crate and seeing them all go through each one was like watching kids at Christmas. Jerolina’s signature dish was a whole grilled Snapper served with Dabu dabu and coconut corn. Dabu dabu is a type of hot sauce found in Manado cuisine from Indonesia.
Her signature dish was the first one to be presented to the judges and she certainly set the bar high for her fellow finalists. The fish was so delicate and moist with a rich, spicy flavour from the Dabu dabu sauce. The chargrilled corn also had a hint of spice which balanced elegantly with the sweet coconut flavours.
Those of you who know me well, you will be familiar with my “flying hands of fury”. It is a term used by my friends to describe my ever-moving and highly expressive hand movements. Well, actually they are sometimes more like arm movements.
Within minutes of meeting Amy I concluded we must have been separated at birth because she also sported a similarly fantastic pair of flying hands of fury. Being such an energetic and vibrant person I was excited to see what creative and crazy dish she would create. Her signature dish was a stunning carpaccio of kangaroo fillet served on a bed of Oriental lentils with pickled beetroot. It was plated immaculately and I found it hard to believe she had no chef training.
As I am allergic to kangaroo meat, unfortunately I didn’t try this dish. Roo causes me to develop a rather unusual anaphylactic like response where my throat swells up and I struggle to breathe. Kind of like what I imagine a nut allergy to be. But to roo! It’s not pleasant. I was informed by those who ate the carpaccio that the meat was uber-tender and matched well with the creamy lentils and sweet beetroot.
Gayle runs the front of house for Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard in Carnarvon. Pickles Point are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood so it was logical that this would be the main feature of her signature dish.
She cooked a freshly cut fillet of Shark Bay Pink Snapper topped with butterflied Tiger prawns and served on a sweet potato mash with lime and mayonnaise. I looked over at the judge’s faces and I could see they were struggling to choose a winner. It was going to be such a hard call to make as every dish was outstanding.
The lovely, smiling Paul was the lucky last competitor to serve up his signature dish to the judging panel. This didn’t appear to frazzle him whatsoever and he looked so zen and calm as he prepared his dish. I wish cooking had that effect on me!
His dish was titled the “Gascoyne seafood tasting plate”. It comprised of four equally outstanding components each showcasing a outstanding number of key hero ingredients from the Gascoyne region; King prawns with salsa verde, citrus cured snapper, pan fried Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled vegetables; and snapper tartare with basil drizzle.
Narrowing it down to just one winner was going to be very hard and I didn’t envy the judges having to make this decision. The winner of each regional final will go on to battle it out for the title of WA Signature Dish on WA Day in June. The other three regional finalists are from the areas of Southern Forests, Great Southern and Perth. In order to help prepare the contestants for the big finale, each regional winner will receive intense one-on-one training from their mentor chef. I can see the Peter has a strong competitive streak in him so we couldn’t have asked for a more motivated chef to train our finalist!
As the crowd gathered around to wait for the announcement of the winner I could feel the excitement and tension in the air. The judges had used a points system to score each dish, assessing its flavour, presentation and originality but also on its ability to proudly showcase the produce from the Gascoyne region. Before they declared the winner, we were informed that it was an extremely close call with the top two contestants so close they nearly came in at a tie.
And the winner of the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional is……..Paul Kelly with his stunning Gascoyne seafood tasting plate. A huge congratulations to you Paul and also a big well done to Jerolina, Amy and Gayle for creating such amazing and individual signature dishes. Hopefully we may all meet again next year? 😉
Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best.
I wanted to find the most economical way to get to Carnarvon for the WA Signature Dish regional final. After toying with the idea of driving from Perth with a one way hire car, I ditched that thought in exchange for trading some Qantas frequent flyer points and catching a flight from Perth to Exmouth instead. Chuffed with the sensation I got something for nothing I proceeded to plan our detailed itinerary to explore the Gascoyne. However, despite all my organisation and planning it was soon to be upturned when I received an invite to attend the Taste of Perth Gala night along with my fellow official Eat Drink Perth bloggers. The Gala night coincided with the day we were due to fly out. I changed our flights to leave the following day so I could do both. Not a problem.
We rocked up to Perth airport the next day for our flight only to discover that I got our departure times mixed up with those of our original flight and consequently we missed the plane! To make matters worse, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a weather warning for the Gascoyne region predicting flash floods and a lot of rain. Gulp. Were we actually going to make it up North at all?
The Qantas service desk staff were quite empathetic about our plight which I found surprising given that during our time spent at their desk there were a number of other passengers who had also missed their flights. One passenger was getting quite agitated and as she blame shifted to all those around her I admired the level of patience maintained by the Qantas staff despite being confronted by such grumpy people.
The following day we returned back to the airport for our second attempt at getting to Exmouth. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so we made our way to the Qantas Lounge to relax. There was a disappointing amount of gluten free food available in the Lounge with only plain rice cakes, sliced tomato and capsicum on offer. There was also some gluten free muesli but it contained dried fruit, which is no good for a fructose malabsorber. The Boy had much better options and happily made himself a couple of cheese and tomato toasties. The smell of melted cheese was enough to make me swoon.
After filling up on a stack of rice cakes I noticed the departure screen flashed up with ***DELAYED DEPARTURE*** next to our flight and I really started to think this trip was doomed. I enquired at the Qantas Club desk why the plane was delayed and was relieved to learn that it was simply because a crew member had fallen sick. Boo for them but phew for us!
Finally, over half an hour after the scheduled departure time we made our way to the gate. Our Qantas Link plane was a De Havilland DHC-8 Dash 400. This type of plane is a turbo propeller however it was much quieter than I expected it to be if you excluded the initial noisy climb to cruising altitude. The seats are arranged in a comfortable 2-2 configuration and there was no inflight entertainment available. The flight takes around two and a half hours.
We were served a light complementary in-flight snack of a savoury zucchini muffin and some choc chip biscuits. There was no option to choose a gluten free friendly meal on booking the flight so I was thankful I had binged on those plain rice cakes in the Lounge.
We arranged a hire car with Budget using the Qantas website at the same time when we booked our flights. Given the weather warnings I was grateful we got upgraded to a 4 wheel drive Nissan Pajero. Having already done my research I knew that there is only one roadside petrol station between Learmonth airport and Carnarvon so I ensured my luggage was packed full of gluten free snacks for us to munch on for the drive.
We drove for three and a half hours in the intermittently pouring rain taking great caution on the roads as there were a lot of wandering livestock happily grazing along the roadside. In the breaks in the rain we managed to pull over and take some quick pictures but most of the trip it felt like we were racing the storm to our destination. It was a relief to check into our hotel the Best Western in Carnarvon completely unscathed despite all odds trying to prevent us getting there. I could barely sleep that night as I was too excited about what the following day would bring! Stay tuned as my post on the WA Signature dish Gascoyne regional final will be next in this series!
A couple of weeks ago the Boy bought me a surprise gift of some Pemberton Finger Limes from Scutti, our local greengrocer. Finger Limes are a native Australian plant that originate from our lowland, subtropical rain forests in Queensland and New South Wales. I am by no means a stranger to this curious “citrus caviar” having eaten it a number of times when we have been out at restaurants. I have never really known how to use it in my own cooking however figuring there is never anything wrong with experimentation in the kitchen I decided to use it to garnish my vegan tortillas I made using Mexican masa flour.
The finger limes added a whole new level of texture and flavour to my Mexican feast with each lime pearl popping in my mouth to give a short sharp burst of citrusy freshness. Within a week of posting my recipe I was contacted by Jacquie Baker from Pemberton Finger Limes to kindly invite me to the Pemberton Finger Lime Tasting night held at The Terrace Hotel. Keen to learn other ways to use these bizarrely shaped fruits, I eagerly accepted her invitation.
I was joined by fellow bloggers Perth Munchkin and Perth Food Engineers along with a number of other foodies for a night of finger lime laced treats. We kicked off the evening with margaritas made using finger lime salt, citrus and caviar.
The first dish was a smoked chicken mousseline with avocado puree wrapped in a thin layer of pastry and therefore not gluten free. The chef happily made me one on request without the pastry so I could also try it. The mousse was smooth and light with a strong smoky after taste which was uplifted by the hint of citrus.
Following on from the smoked chicken mousseline, we were served thinly sliced cured ocean trout with radish and crème fraiche, topped with micro herbs and finger limes. The trout was soft, tender and delicately flavoured. As more food slowly started to roll out of the kitchen, Jacquie spoke to us about how her parents’ retirement hobby has grown into a fully-fledged and successful business.
It all started back in 2006 when they planted two paddocks with finger lime plants on their Pemberton property and harvested their first crop in 2011. This crop sold out in just six weeks and the fruit were highly sought after by Perth’s top chefs including Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse.
Now onto their fourth year of harvest, Pemberton Finger Limes have made their way into the retail market which means you don’t have to spend big bucks and visit a top end restaurant to try them.
Over the course of the evening the chef experimented with a number of different proteins to showcase the finger limes however my favourite dishes were those using seafood. Citrus caviar topped on oysters adds a burst of freshness that you simply cannot get with a squeeze of standard lime juice. Better still the sensation of popping “eggs” of juice in your mouth layers such a fabulous textural element that gives me flashbacks of some our molecular gastronomy experiences with their spheres, powders and other intriguing elements. I can understand why it is such a popular ingredient at Amuse!
The night ended with some vanilla cheese cake which was regrettably not gluten free however the chef did offer to serve me the top half without the biscuit base. I am always a little nervous when I am offered this as there is always the chance of cross contamination however I didn’t react to it later that night so obviously he took care in preparing it for me.
Pemberton Finger Limes are a seasonal fruit which are generally available from early April through to end of May depending on the weather conditions. They can be purchased from a few select locations around Perth, refer to their website for stockists.Pemberton Finger Limes | www.pembertonfingerlimes.com.au Chompchomp was an invited guest to this event thanks to Pemberton Finger Limes. The Terrace Hotel 237 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | www.terracehotelperth.com.au
For people who eat out regularly the Entertainment Book is an essential annual purchase. It is a book containing hundreds of discounts available for many of the popular restaurants around your chosen capital city in Australia. The books can be purchased through many worthwhile charities and a proportion of the sale price goes to the charity who is selling it. This year we bought ours from the Cancer Council of WA. One of the things I love about the Book is that not only do we get discounts from many of our favourite restaurants but it also encourages us to check out ones we wouldn’t ordinarily visit. Having worked all weekend I felt the need to make the most of the final shreds of sunshine so I flipped through our copy to look for somewhere local that was open for lunch. The Dux café is on South Terrace in Como and have actually been in the area for over ten years. It is a cosy little restaurant that has a strong local following and hosts sell-out degustations and wine dinners on a regular basis.
Dux Café have a number of gluten free options and the chef is happy to adapt other options to make them gluten free. We started with the trio of dips with assorted breads and some gluten free toast on the side for me. The dips included a smooth hummus, a spicy capsicum dip and some olive oil with balsamic. I am guessing the absence of the third dip meant that it wasn’t gluten free.
I was in the mood for share food so we ordered the tasting plate which I was told has components that could be done gluten free. The “prawn duo” consisted of local tiger prawns simply grilled alongside some prawn croquettes that weren’t gluten free. It was served on a bed of fresh home grown herbs, mango, chilli and cherry tomatoes. It would have been good if the croquette was served on a different plate to avoid contamination of crumbs.
On the opposite side of the platter was a gluten free crispy squid salad with house cured streaky bacon and nam jim dressing. The squid was slightly chewy but when eaten in one mouthful along with the salad it packed a powerful punch of flavour. In the middle of the platter was a Persian feta and fig tart with caramelised shallots and basil. As this was obviously this was not gluten free so I left that for the Boy to enjoy while I tucked into the spicy squid salad.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to share all of the platter I also ordered the sautéed exotic mushrooms with creamy sherry vinegar sauce. I would normally order such a dish for breakfast but as many of you may know by now I’m a little nuts for my mushrooms. There were a whole array of different types of mushrooms in there and I was grateful I had gluten free bread on the side to soak up all the creamy naughtiness left in the bottom of the bowl.
We didn’t really NEED dessert but then that never really is the point of dessert is it? I loved the sound of the “Dux trinket tray” and was even more intrigued when our waiter confirmed it was gluten free.
Scattered across the plate were indeed a collection of sweet trinkets as described including triangles of soft white chocolate fudge, raspberry jubes, a large Dux Pedro truffle, thick chunks of honeycomb and some crystalline pistachio praline. Whilst definitely not for the diabetically inclined, this sugar hit had a wonderful balance of elements and fitted in well with our whole concept of sharing a variety of small nibbles for lunch.
Dux offer an alternate dining option for those looking for a relaxed café with a bit of finesse away from the Vic Park and South Perth café strips. Whilst the savoury dishes that we chose did not leave me spinning with excitement, our dessert was something quite interesting and definitely something I would be keen to return back for.Dux Restaurant 71 South Terrace, Como WA 6152 | (08) 9474 9000 | www.duxrestaurant.com.au Price: $$$ (Lunch menu $10-22, Entrée $18-20, Mains $33-39) Food: 6/10 (loved the trinkets and the creamy mushrooms) Service: 2.5/5 (initially attentive but became very slow, waited ages to order dessert) Ambience: 2.5/5 (has a tidy café feel) Drinks: N/A Total: 12/20
Prior to travelling up to the North West corner of Australia for the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional final, I wanted to touch base with the region’s designated chef Peter Manifis. Peter will be judging the four finalists in a cook off in order to select the winning dish that will represent the Gascoyne for the finale. He will then spend time closely with the regional winner mentoring and training them to give them the best chance at winning the competition.
Peter is the part owner and Executive chef for InContro, one of the fine dining local restaurants in my area. The restaurant is located on the South Perth Esplanade and overlooks the Swan River facing towards the Perth City skyline. It makes such a romantic spot for an evening meal offering uninterrupted views of the city lights twinkling away on the water. The Boy and I have celebrated many special occasions at InContro so I was excited when I found out that I was to be working with Peter. Upon meeting him I was inspired to see someone even more enthusiastic and energetic than I am. Those of you who have met me will know that this is really quite an achievement!
Whilst I understand that Chefs are often very busy people, I was grateful he took time out to have a chat with me and share some of his insights into our city’s food industry. We visited the restaurant on a sunny afternoon so we could kick back and enjoy an InContro seafood feast, something that they are very well known for here in Perth. Here’s what Peter had to say to me……
Peter, you are obviously a very passionate foodie, when and how did this love affair with food start?It all started with my grandparents owning fruit and vegetable shops in Perth when I was very young, food has always been in my blood. Moving on to my parents having fish and chip shops, a fish factory, processing plant and selling fish in my early years from age 2 – 15. I have grown up very involved in the food industry. Then of course I got my apprenticeship at the Loose Box.
You underwent your chef’s training at the highly acclaimed Loose Box under the guidance of Chef Alain Farbregues who is recognised as one of our city’s best French chefs. How has working with Alain influenced your career today?Working with Alain has had a great influence on my work and career. It has given me discipline, a good work ethic and enhanced my passion for food. Working under Alain gave me all round knowledge of the basics of the European style of cooking this then gives the grounds for everything else to follow. This is priceless.
Over the past few years we have seen Western Australia grow into a State of avid foodies with an abundance of fantastic new venues opening and food festivals being held all over the State. What excites you about the food scene here in Western Australia?The food scene here in Western Australia is fantastic and I was part of it before it started to get so fancy. It excites me to know that I stayed here in WA to help be a small part of what is such an amazing food industry we have today.
Your restaurant In Contro in South Perth has the reputation for being one of Perth’s top seafood restaurants with much of your produce sourced from our State’s North West. What are you favourite ingredients from the Gascoyne region and what makes it so special?My favourite ingredients are, Shark Bay wild prawns and Plantation vegetables. I am so passionate about this as I get to see the love people put into this produce and this reflects in what we get delivered to the restaurant. This is really special for me.
WA’s Signature Dish is an exciting competition hosted by Buy West Eat Best over the next few months. This competition is open to amateur cooks who love food and cooking but are not professional chefs. The aim is to find the ultimate recipe that puts our State on the plate. You have been chosen to be the mentor chef for the Gascoyne region’s finalist. What is your best advice for the four contestants attending the regional cook off held in Carnarvon next Monday?My advice is this, Regional produce! Use as much of it as you can and just keep it as simple as possible, let the produce speak for itself.
I hear you will be starring on the chef line up for this winter’s Truffle Kerfuffle Festival. I am a total truffle addict and have already booked up our weekend to be full of trufflicious indulgence. How will you be involved with this exciting event?I am also a massive truffle fan and always get involved with anything truffle. I am one of four chefs who will have truffle potato stand. We are cooking two major dinners for over 200 guests cooking a selection of canapés and protein and celebrating the produce with truffle.
Finally, I have dined in your restaurant many times over the years and always found your staff to be very helpful with respect to my gluten intolerance. Do you have any family members with food allergies or intolerances?None of my family members have any allergies or intolerances, however, I do have staff members and customers who do. I also find that as I work on the restaurant floor as well as the kitchen I understand and appreciate people’s requirements and feel they deserve food which is just as varied and exciting as for people who can eat everything. This is why I try to be innovative and always create new and exciting dishes to accommodate everyone. Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Competition. Disclaimer: Chef Peter Manifis kindly offered the above meal for us at InContro for a discounted rate. Thank you Peter, we were not expecting such generosity. In Contro 79 South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9474 5566 | www.incontro.com.au
Taste of Perth is a three-day food festival held at Langley Park from the 2nd to the 4th of May 2014. The Taste Festivals are popular all around the world and this is the first year the amazing event finally arrives in Perth. It brings together in one location many of our city’s famous chefs allowing visitors to sample a multitude of signature dishes in a single experience.
The chef line-up for the weekend includes some of the best dining Perth has to offer such as Nobu, Greenhouse, Silks, Print Hall, Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume, el Público , Co-op Dining, No4 Blake Street and Bib & Tucker.
There will also be a number of other gourmet food and beverage stalls, interactive attractions, master classes and cooking demonstrations for you to check out in between devouring multiple courses of do-it-yourself degustation. The event expects an attendance of over 15,000 foodies over the course of the weekend with a choice of either a lunch session under the sun or a dinner session under the stars. I attended the evening session as a guest on the Friday night along with my fellow Eat Drink Perth bloggers.
There were a number of gluten free options available with most of the kitchens having something on offer. Having listened to my husband talk up eating bugs after his positive experiences at a number of Thailand night markets I figured I should do him the honour and give them a go.
The fried crickets are served with chilli salt and tasted somewhat like whitebait with a crisp exterior and a distinctly soft but not unpleasant centre. They were very salty which enabled me to wash down the artisan mescal without too much effort, although I did call on Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse to help me out. Being a wonderful friend she was more than happy to oblige.
Ai-Ling’s recommendation for my next dish wasn’t one that I had originally planned to eat however it actually ended up being one of the best dishes of the night. This was No4 Blake Street’s lamb belly. Yes you heard it right, LAMB belly. It had all the alternating layers of flesh and fat you would expect from a belly but with the rich depth of lamb flavour instead of the more familiar pork. It was served with a pomegranate glaze, charred eggplant and fava bean tofu.
Not being a big meat eater these days I was keen to freshen up my palate with something vegetarian and moved across to the adjacent stall Bib & Tucker. Their vegetarian beetroot salad was also gluten free. It was an interesting play on textures with puréed, shaved and roasted beets tossed with Swiss chard, barrel aged feta, tiny little husks of crispy quinoa and tart pomegranate dressing. Within minutes of ordering this dish I was summoned by my group as it was time for us to return back to the VIP tent for the announcement of the Gala awards. I should have really given a bit more thought to my dish choice as I looked a bit awkward in the posh VIP area trying to eat messy salad while holding a camera, handbag and champagne. A large portion of it ended up on the floor along with my fork, and some of it on my friends! (Sorry Michelle! xx)
Regrettably there wasn’t anything gluten free to eat in the VIP lounge excluding the freshly shucked oysters. Not that I was sad I had to eat lots of oysters but a few more options would have been better, especially given the price of the tickets at $135 per person. Once the formalities of the evening had finished, I was happy to dash back out into the crowds to complete my crazed eating binge.
My next stop was Co-op Dining. I absolutely love the Mainwaring’s and everything they stand for; sustainability, local produce and seasonality. I already had marked on my menu the duck and chestnut soup as a hopeful gluten free option and was over the moon to hear my prediction was correct. Creamy thick chestnut soup warmed my chilled bones while the luscious chunks of duck confit soothed my soul. This was also one of my favourites of the night.
My group was starting to slow in pace at this point. We had already knocked back quite a few champagnes and wanted to make sure that our final selections were wise ones. The unanimous decision was for Nonna’s meatballs from Lalla Rookh. I prepared myself for the bad news that they were not gluten free and my suspicions were correct. Whilst the chef informed me there was only a “trace” of gluten, that little smidge is enough to ruin my night so I shimmied next door to Greenhouse.
Greenhouse could do a number of options gluten free which left me somewhat indecisive for a few brief moments before I settled on the paper bark smoked barramundi. Topped with bacon and on a bed of sauerkraut it was super tasty and surely it was also somewhat healthy. After eating the barramundi and bacon pieces out of the bowl I spared myself the fructose aftermath by only nibbling a small mouthful of the sauerkraut. It was just enough for me to enjoy the flavours before I reluctantly cast it away.
I had room for just one more. And to be honest I only had enough crowns to buy one more too. I opted for the piece de la resistance; Bistro Guillaume’s salted caramel macaron. This is no macaron for the light hearted and in fact I question whether this can actually be called a macaron at all. In fact I prefer to call it a salted caramel dessert burger. It filled my whole hand and took me several minutes to eat.
Whilst I was initially a little disturbed at the gigantic abomination I had purchased, with each bite that I took the whole concept of this dessert burger won me over. It was certainly something different and absolutely worth trying however I couldn’t see myself binging through a whole box of 20. It least not without making myself very sick!
Taste of Perth runs all this weekend and tickets can be purchased at the gate. Like many of these food festivals, food and beverages are purchased using a currency called “Crowns” which you can purchase on site very easily with cash or cards.
For more details head to the Taste of Perth website.Disclaimer: Chompchomp visited the Taste of Perth Festival as a guest of 3am Thoughts PR. My meals were purchased with my own money. Nobu Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.noburestaurants.com/perth www.greenhouseperth.com www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/silks www.printhall.com.au www.lallarookh.com.au www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au www.elpublico.com.au www.co-opdining.com.au www.no4blakestreet.com.au www.bibandtucker.net.au