There are two components that I need in order to happily publish a blog post about a restaurant; I need pretty photos and I need an interesting story. If either of those are lacking then it doesn’t matter how good the experience was I just cannot bring myself to publish it. Call it pride, vanity, perfectionism, whatever it is I cannot control it. My first visit to La Cholita, a Mexican bar in Northbridge presented me with this exact problem.
It was a great night out with fellow blogger Foodie Cravings which had originally started off with plans for us to attend an Eat Drink Perth movie event. However on arrival we found out there was no gluten free fare available so our evening evolved into an impromptu night of tacos, tostadas and wine at La Cholita. We laughed, shared stories and ate until we nearly popped; something that isn’t exactly unusual for the two of us. The next day I looked back on my photos and my heart sunk. They were all total crap!!!
Determined not to be beaten by bad lighting, over the following weeks I tried to encourage the Boy to join me on a return visit to La Cholita to acquire the focused, colourful captures of this venue’s food that I needed. Our first two attempts were stalled due to illness and family obligations until finally on a weekend where we had no plans I locked in a lunch date days in advance. Unbeknownst to me, the lovely weather man also locked some plans, his were for a severe weather warning. Awesome. Refusing to be beaten again, we headed into Northbridge hitting William Street at exactly the same time as the downpour.
I reached across to the back seat of my car to grab my umbrella only to realise I had moved it into the car boot. I quickly jumped out of the car splashing through the riverine that was once the street gutter to peer into my empty boot. Argh! No umbrella in there either! By this point I was soaked through. Admitting defeat I ran to the parking meter grabbed a ticket and sprinted with the Boy down the street to arrive at La Cholita resembling a drowned rat.
I already knew what to order having had a feast there only weeks before. Most of their menu is gluten free excluding the quesadillas, the fish and jalapeño tacos and the flour tortillas. The guacamole can be served gluten free if you request the crispy corn tortillas instead.
A word of warning to the fructose malabsorbers out there, there was onion in many of the dishes on the menu. I decided to live with the consequences as my reaction to onion isn’t serious like that with gluten. I figure eating a little bit here and there on occasions is hardly going to kill me as I am so strict in avoiding it at home.
I ordered a selection of four tacos which included vegetarian, prawn, beef cheek and slow cooked pork. The Boy’s vego option contained some spiced pumpkin, pickled cabbage and queso fresco. The tacos were soft and fresh making them easy to eat without falling apart.
The Boy will sometimes eat seafood so given there was only one vegetarian taco on offer, he ate the prawn taco for his second option. Two crunchy grilled prawns topped with some papaya salad, avocado and finely chopped cos lettuce made this a light option for those not wanting to eat the more heavy meatier choices.
I ate the remaining two tacos; the beef cheek and the slow cooked pork. Surprisingly the pork was my favourite as I am not the hugest fan of eating pig. Soft shreds of pork filled the taco to the brim topped with a single grilled piece of pineapple which had been cooked just long enough for the sugars to caramelise on the surface.
We also ordered some tostadas which are basically crispy corn chips with toppings. The spiced duck with refried beans had a decent amount of heat in it which was just what I needed to defrost my soaked, cold bones however the Boy found it too spicy for his tastebuds. He preferred the creamy crab with avocado although he did comment that the crab did not have a lot of flavour.
There was a break in the rain so knowing La Cholita’s gluten free dessert options were limited we quickly paid and marched down to James Street where I knew there was a Taiwanese dessert place called Meet Fresh. This place is very popular over in Sydney and this was our first store that had opened in WA. It was the late afternoon and we were the only customers.
On my recommendation the Boy ordered the high tower of supreme mango crushed ice with vanilla ice cream. It contained a decent portion of fresh mango cascading over the syrupy sweet mountain of ice.
Unlike the Boy, I am a big lover of Taiwanese style desserts however I am a little bit inexperienced in that I never really know what I can order. I always have to double check then triple check what is gluten free. I ended up choosing the herbal jelly with taro, red beans and tapioca pearls. The pearls were chewy and sweet but I found the herbal jelly a bit flavourless compared to that I had at Taro Taro.
Knowing the next downpour wasn’t far away the Boy put his spoon down defeated by his mango mountain and suggested we head back to the car before we get drenched through again. My dessert was significantly smaller than his and so I had pretty much finished it. I happily agreed and gathered my things. As soon as we piled into the car the heavens opened. It was our first bit of good timing that day and I can say it was greatly appreciated!Chompchomp’s meal at La Cholita was a self funded taco feast paid for with soaking wet notes pulled from her drenched jeans pocket. La Cholita 279 William Street, Northbridge, WA 6003 | Facebook $$ (Small plates $5-15, Mains $26-28) www.meetfresh.net Taiwanese desserts $5-10 each
Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
Luckily there are a number of more accessible restaurants owned by the same group within walking distance albeit neither are headed by the acclaimed Chef Adria.
I consoled myself knowing at least I would be able to visit both of these other locations called Casa de Tapas and Rias de Galicia. I was so thankful that my newly made friends that I had met at the vet conference were also keen foodies and were more than happy to oblige my needs. I loved Casa’s quirky menu which came presented as a children’s book complete with wacky cartoons.
We ordered a bunch of tapas dishes to share, many of which were naturally gluten free and thus not requiring any adaptation. Within the first few days of arriving in Spain I had learnt to politely request to the wait staff “Sin gluten per favor?” voiced in my poorly pronounced Spanish. These seemed to be the magic words needed to help reveal my gluten free options. It amazed me that how no matter where we stopped to eat in Barcelona, everything tasted so damn good! Casa de Tapas’s marinated olives contained a mix of four different types including gordal sevillana, caspe, verdial and kalamata.
A simple dish that I grew to love in my time in Spain was “escalivada”, or smoked roasted vegetables. Soft strips of capsicum and eggplant were lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil making them as delicate as butter. This dish would have been even more amazing cast on top of some crusty bread. Sadly the only place I found gluten free bread in Barcelona was back at my hotel.
My friends each ordered themselves a “fried box of things” as it was described on the menu. Each wooden box contained a variety of crispy fried pieces of seafood including school prawns, calamari and octopus. It smelt absolutely amazing and made me quickly reach over for the menu to order myself some more food as I started to salivate.
With each dish we ate, Casa de Tapas reinforced the concept that you don’t need to use lots of fancy ingredients to make food taste amazing. All you require are fresh ingredients prepared with love. Dishes as simple as flash fried green peppers and poached prawns needed nothing extra for flavour other than a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Of course a meal in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without a serve of “pulpo”. There is nothing quite like Spanish octopus, it takes on a texture I rarely find replicated back home in Perth. It is so soft and nearly creamy, with no chewiness and is dusted with paprika and spices. This dish was served on top of slices of boiled potato that mashed easily under my fork. I smeared the potato over the spicy octopus sections and happily gobbled it up.
Casa de Tapas offer simple traditional Galician styled tapas without breaking the bank. I was very appreciative that they were so helpful with selecting gluten free tapas dishes for me. We found the service to be quick and friendly and would have been happy to return again and again if it wasn’t for my lengthy bucket list!Casa de Tapas Cañota Calle Lleida 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain | 93 325 9171 | casadetapas.com Chompchomp’s Barcelona trip in July 2013 was partly funded for by her place of work as part of her continuing education fund. She had to foot the food bill for the week herself however despite eating the most absurd amount of food she found it to cost much less than an equivalent amount of feasting in her home-town of Perth, Australia.
For the final blog post on my trip to the coastal town of Carnarvon, I thought it would be useful to summarise my discoveries for my fellow gluten intolerants in a simple gluten free Carnarvon traveller’s guide.
Carnarvon is located about nine hundred kilometres north of Perth on the western coast of Australia. It is easily accessible by car, bus and air. This was my first trip up into the northern corner of our vast country and we originally planned to drive up on a long road trip from Perth. This would have taken us around ten hours excluding stops.
After giving it more thought I changed my mind and decided I wanted to experience more of the Coral Coast further north from Carnarvon on the same holiday. This would add even more hours onto our already long drive. So instead to us save time, we chose to fly into Exmouth with Qantas airlines, hire a car and drive direct from Learmonth Airport. The flight is about two hours and then the drive from Exmouth to Carnarvon is around four hours depending on the weather conditions.
I found driving around Carnarvon and through the Outback onto Exmouth was a type of road trip unlike anything I have previous experienced. The roads are much more remote than any city slicker like me could have even imagined. Roadside stops are few and few between with very little to offer the gluten free traveller. I arrived fully prepared with roads snacks packed in my suitcase and I was able to restock my supplies at the local Woolworths in Carnarvon town where they had a full range of gluten free breads, crackers, muffins and other snacks.
Outback driving is something you need some preparation for. My ten best tips for beginners are:• Check the road and weather conditions before you leave: We encountered some pretty crazy weather and had to change our routes due to road closures on a number of occasions. BOM gives up to date reports. Be sure to check their website daily. • Pack plenty of water. Remember there are minimal service stations once you get out of Carnarvon Town and onto the highway and it can get pretty hot out there! • Stock up on gluten free snacks before you set out. Those few and far between service stations have slim pickings for us gluten free peeps. Come prepared. • Tell someone your plans before you go • Plan your refuelling stops • Obtain a current and accurate map • Use a road worth vehicle ideally a 4WD • Ensure to organise your music devices with good tunes, a charger and a way to play it through your hire car radio. • Watch out for wildlife and livestock on the road. You will be surprised at how much wayward animals are out there. • Don’t drive after dark
We stayed at the Best Western Hospitality Inn where we found the rooms to be simple but clean and are conveniently located within walking distance to the town centre and the picturesque fascine. There are a number of other accommodation options including pubs, motels, backpacker’s lodges and caravan parks. There are currently no luxury styled hotels or chalets.
Where to eat:
My first recommendation for any foodie, whether you are gluten free or not is to get yourself a copy of the Gascoyne Food Trail map and hit the road for your own paddock to plate experience. You will find all sorts of naturally gluten free things to devour including fresh prawns, frozen chocolate pudding fruit and the sweetest bananas you have ever tasted.
For a more traditional feast dining in you need to bear in mind that a lot of the restaurants are closed from Sunday through to Tuesday and some of the tourist cafés are only open seasonally. For two nights of our stay we ate at the Sails Restaurant situated at our hotel because nowhere else was open. Whilst their menu is not marked with gluten free options, the chef was very obliging and could adapt most of the meals for me. We really enjoyed their ginger scallop entrée especially as it came with a substantial number of scallops to share.
It seemed that some other local eateries have yet to buy into the concept of utilising all the amazing fresh local produce available at their doorstep. After speaking with a number of locals I get the feeling this is soon about to change.
One place that has embraced using local produce was the Gascoyne Hotel. Their menu was clearly marked with gluten free options and even had a number of gluten free desserts on offer including cheesecakes, puddings and tiramisu. Whilst their creamy garlic prawns weren’t exactly cheap for an entrée size, they were worth every cent.
Another gluten free item on the Gascoyne’s menu was the salt and pepper calamari. This wasn’t quite the dish we were expecting with only a few pieces of calamari served underneath a mound of crispy rice noodles and generous lashings of a honey, sesame and soy dressing. As odd as this dish looked, the flavours did work well together.
The Boy also ordered himself the local snapper with chips and salad but alas this wasn’t marked gluten free on the menu. I enquired if this could be done gluten free however was informed that I could only have the dishes already marked gluten free on the menu. If you are craving gluten free fish and chips, I managed to find some at the Harbourside Café. They will charge a reasonable amount more for local fish than the alternative option of imported fish but all their staff were aware of how to avoid gluten contamination and prepared a fresh batch of chips in clean oil just for us.
A final recommendation is to head over to “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.
The newly opened One Mile Restaurant located in the Centre next to the jetty and has a young and ambitious chef who informed me will be offering gluten free options on her menu. The Centre provides fabulous views of the jetty and looks out over the water making it the perfect spot to stop for a meal.
Coming up next in my Gascoyne series will take you to the stunning beach-side town of Exmouth where we stayed at the luxurious Ningaloo Novotel Resort and nearly became trapped there due to widespread flooding!Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au/ Water’s Edge Restaurant at the Gascoyne Hotel 121-125 Olivia Terrace, South Carnarvon WA 6701| (08) 9941 1181 | www.gascoynehotel.com.au Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook
One Mile Restaurant at the Interpretive Centre | Heritage Precinct Annear Place, Babbage Island, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 3423 | http://www.carnarvonheritage.com.au/ The Precinct is open daily from 9 am-5 pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
Enjoying gluten free Italian cuisine in a restaurant is a rare luxury for me. Whilst it is easy to make gluten free pasta dishes at home, the number of Italian restaurants that can accommodate us are few and far between. Nearly three years ago, my gastroenterologist insisted I return to eating gluten for nearly seven torturous weeks in order to take the necessary biopsies for Coeliac disease testing. It was a hard slog with every day becoming an effort as the “poison” of gluten decayed my health.
In a pathetic attempt at maintaining a glass half full attitude, I decided to make the most of this time and eat all the gluteny foods that I had been missing for years. I consumed copious amounts of pasta, croissants, donuts and real bread for the duration of my gluten challenge. The fine dining Italian restaurant Modo Mio had only just opened at the Crown and so off I headed with the Boy to eat fresh pasta and bread while I still could. Just a side note, for those who choose to click on the link and read this old post of mine; please be warned! It is one of my very first posts I published back when I was on the steepest part of this blogging learning curve. I find it somewhat cringeworthy to read but remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere.
Years later I was approached by Crown Perth to return to Modo Mio for a subsidised return visit. I was interested to see how this fine dining establishment could handle a gluten free customer such as myself and so I gratefully accepted the invitation.
It had been a mad working weekend filled with emergencies and drama so the thought of sitting in an ambient restaurant with my favourite person sounded like the perfect recipe to unwind. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table which oddly happened to be exactly the same table we sat at back in October 2011. A weird coincidence indeed!
Our waitress for the evening came over to introduce herself and answer any questions regarding the menu. She knew all the dishes in depth and proceeded to talk me through each one advising what was gluten free or how they could be adapted. I was pleasantly surprised that despite being a cuisine I thought wasn’t very gluten free friendly I had an abundance of options. There was even gluten free bread AND pasta available.
We started with the trio of salmon entree. I could immediately see Modo Mio have lifted their game since they opened a few years ago. Our dish was beautifully presented with each component as fresh as the next. In the centre of the plate was a mound of soft salmon tartare tossed with citrus, cucumber and sour cream. Each mouthful disappeared in a second with subtle salty flavours accentuated by the occasional burst of a salmon roe egg.
At the far end of the dish sat two silky smooth rolls of salmon perched on cucumber discs and filled with sour cream. One was topped with fresh dill and the other with crunchy poppy seeds. The Boy knows how much I love the sensation of poppy seeds splitting between my teeth and so he allowed me take that one as he reached for the other.
The final component of the salmon trio was not the easiest portion to share. A hard-boiled egg was filled with more of the satiny smoked salmon and topped with a decadent spoonful of Oscietra caviar. We carefully halved the portion to ensure we each got an equal amount of the decadent topping. Not a bad mouthful of luxury for the price!
We had specifically planned to share just one entrée so we could also have a plate of pasta before we hit main course. I mean, how can I NOT order pasta when she offered me a gluten free version? Our waitress had recommended that the best dish on the menu to have with the gluten free penne was the “spaghetti ai fruitti di mare” or, seafood pasta.
Gluten free pasta can be temperamental to cook however I noted ours was exquisitely “al dente”. Each tube was liberally coated in richly flavoured chilli tomato sauce and buried deep in the dish was a generous serving of mussels, cockles, fish, squid and octopus.
Abandoning all cares that I needed to leave some room for both our main and dessert, I tucked into the pasta greedily like a child with an ice cream on a hot day. This was an uncommon treat that I wanted to enjoy to the maximum.
For my main dish I ordered the “doppio barramundi”, or double barramundi. This dish originally comes with Parma ham saccottini which are little parcels of pasta filled with Parma ham, and therefore it needed to be adapted to be gluten free. The chef kindly replaced the saccottini with some buttery greens and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Each of the two fillets of barramundi were clean tasting without any of the muddy aftertaste that this fish can sometime have. The dish was simply finished with a thick sage and caper butter sauce.
The Boy also ordered fish for his main choosing the seared snapper. A thick chunk of crispy skinned snapper on a bed of the smoothest mash was topped with a flavoursome eggplant caponata. A couple of portions of crumbed calamari, roasted cherry tomatoes and a light drizzle of saffron aioli finished the dish.
I wasn’t anticipating such generously sized main meals as I’m accustomed to most fine dining establishments serving smaller portions. Consequently I ordered one side dish for us; the fresh made mashed potato with sautéed button mushrooms. Although I knew the Boy had already mash in his dish, I wanted some I could enjoy without any gluten contamination. Plus, who can go past sautéed mushrooms? Not me.
Many of you may have heard me mention about the Boy’s love of ice cream. It is an addiction that spans back for as long as I have known him. He waxes and wanes with his ice cream intake in a similar all-or-nothing fashion like I do with chocolate. Modo Mio’s ice cream trio of amarena cherry marble, vanilla and Nutella did not disappoint my beloved ice cream connoisseur.
I opted for one of my favourite traditional Italian desserts; a pannacotta. It was perfectly formed with an exquisite ability to jiggle about without losing its shape despite my repeated attempts as I wobbled my plate about the table. It passed my test and I knew I made the right choice.
It was served in a cherry and rhubarb consommé giving alternating sweet and tart flavours. We went silent as we tucked into our final dish for the evening. All you could hear was the repeated chink of our spoons against our plates as we scooped up each mouthful, both wistfully off in our own private thoughts of decadent dessertland.
I love returning to a restaurant and seeing how they have grown and developed, especially when it is for the better. Whilst there wasn’t anything overtly negative with our first visit to Modo Mio, we did experience slow, inattentive service and our meal lacked any wow factor.
In total contrast, our most recent visit we were very impressed with the quality of the food and the attentive, knowledgeable service. We also found Modo Mio’s prices quite reasonable considering its location in the Crown complex. We will look forward to returning again in the future.Chompchomp dined as a guest of Crown Perth. She was offered a meal of the value of $150 however in her usual gluttonous state she couldn’t hold herself back and ordered a further $100 worth of food and drink. She was more than happy to pay the remaining balance of their meal herself. She was in no way obliged to write a favourable review and did not let the wait staff know the purpose of her visit. Modo Mio Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/modo-mio/about Price: $$$$ Entrees $25-33, Pasta $27-34, Mains $31-51
For many years The Brisbane Hotel was one of our regular Sunday Session drinking holes. However in recent years our careers, families and a hint of maturity have replaced these fun-filled afternoons making them less and less frequent. Furthermore since becoming a food blogger, I find myself searching out new venues to visit rather than returning to our tried and tested favourites. Consequently, I confess I haven’t eaten at the Brisbane for well over a year, maybe longer. Last week I received an invitation to come along to their wintertime Tuesday “Roast and Red” night.
Tuesday isn’t exactly a night that I would expect to see people out and about yet the Brisbane was alive with activity with customers drinking at the bar as well as those dining in. We were shown to our table and I was offered the “dietary requirements menu”. This wasn’t just the normal menu with scribbles and lines drawn across it but rather a specifically printed menu filled with gluten free and vegetarian options. This was a quick and easy way to impress me as there were loads of options on there including gluten free pizzas.
The Brisbane’s Roast and Red special runs every Tuesday night throughout winter offering a full traditional styled roast served with a glass of their house-label Shiraz for the measly price of $25. They are more than happy to prepare separate gluten free roasts provided they receive advance notice on booking. We were warned by our waiter that the roast is a big serve however as per usual we didn’t heed this advice and ordered ourselves a couple of gluten free starters first.
Gazing at the menu I was a little distracted by all the tasty gluten free pizzas and we nearly ordered one for our starter before my logic kicked in. It dawned on me that eating a whole pizza PLUS a roast PLUS dessert MAY just prove a teeny bit too much food for us. Maybe. We opted for the tasting plate and the special of the day instead.
The tasting plate was a decent size with all items gluten free. The chorizo was mouth-wateringly juicy and burst with flavour on each bite. The mixed olives bowl had a pleasing range of soft and firm, green and black which suited the Boy and my differing preferences.
The polenta chips were my favourite part of the plate crunching satisfyingly with each Chomp to expose the piping hot, soft centre. As we ate our way through them I thought to myself that I would have preferred it if there were a few more chips on our plate but by the time we had finished our meal I was actually thankful there wasn’t as I was super full.
Our second starter was one of the daily specials; seared scallops with crispy pancetta on a bed of cauliflower purée. Scallops and pancetta has always been a combination of flavours rocks my world; creamy soft sweetness with salty smokiness is close to being in heaven in my humble opinion. The scallops were lightly browned to a pale caramel colour yet remained silky on the inside like pillows of angelic deliciousness.
Our waiter was mindful not to pump out our food too quickly and gave us the perfect amount of time to rest between courses before bringing out the star of the show; the roast. Having already given advance notice for my gluten free version, my chook had been stuffed with lemon and herbs instead of stuffing and was roasted separately from the rest of the birds to ensure no cross contamination.
My gluten free gravy was made using the juices from my chook and arrowroot flour to thicken. The cheese sauce was omitted as there was no gluten free replacement however I didn’t even notice it missing. The chicken was tender and brimming with moisture, flaking off the bone easily. I admit that for $25 in a funky venue with attentive service, this was a meal hard to match in value around Perth.
I was close to being well and truly stuffed. Layers of polenta, chorizo, scallops, half a chicken and a man-sized serving of roast vegetables all sat in my distended stomach fighting to make their way through my digestive tract. Thankfully I am one of the many who are blessed with a second stomach; the dessert stomach. And in these times it is a worthy anomaly to have.
As I gazed over the dessert menu I was astonished to see that everything on there was gluten free. I actually had to double check with our waiter to ensure this was correct. Indeed it was! I could theoretically have ALL the desserts. I paused briefly to consider whether this was possible before the Boy read my mind and promptly said “No!”
We settled on the chocolate nemesis with stewed rhubarb and raspberry gelato. I reasoned that the raspberry gelato was to keep the Boy happy but in all honesty I was haggling for chocolate. Our dessert came out looking much more ladylike than my previous chocolate nemesis experience at the Rose and Crown where it looked more like a miniature replica of the ominous Mount Doom. Whilst the nemesis was very rich and dark, for a hard core chocolate lover such as myself it was the ideal way to end such a hearty feast.
A big thank you to all the staff at the Brisbane that looked after us for the evening, we couldn’t fault your service and friendliness. And an even bigger thank you for being such a gluten free friendly venue.
Chompchomp was an invited guest of The Brisbane hotel however her views are her entirely own and she was not obliged to write a favourable blog post in exchange for a feed. She is already planning on how she will be able to return as a paying customer so she can eat one of their gluten free pizzas PLUS a roast on the same night. It can be done. It’s all about the stretchy pants. The Brisbane Hotel 292 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9227 2300 | www.thebrisbanehotel.com.au $$$ Entrées $9-23, Pizza $19-22 (GF bases available for +$4), Mains ($25-39), Roast and Red Tuesday nights only, $25 including a glass of house Shiraz. Bookings are highly recommended. Call in advance if you want your roast to be gluten free and they will ensure it is cooked separately.
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
We have visited the Wild Duck a couple of times when they were located in Albany. On our most recent visit we even managed to wow my stepdad by giving him his first experience of a degustation meal complete with fancy foams and gels. The Boy has very fond memories of Albany and was happy to see how this creative restaurant has managed moving up to the big smoke.
Our evening began with the chef’s amuse bouche, a Thai influenced fish cake with a herb aioli. This tasty morsel wasn’t gluten free. My gluten free replacement was a single but super fresh oyster from Franklin Harbour.
These South Australian oysters are always so plump and creamy and never fail to excite me. I also chose to have the matched wines with our degustation however I couldn’t help myself from starting the meal with an additional glass of bubbles. In hindsight, I should remember that when doing a degustation with matched wines, I don’t NEED that extra glass of bubbles.
Our first course was a cute little mug of broccoli soup. It was wintry cold and rainy outside and the warming soup was a perfect choice to ease us into an evening of eating and birthday celebrations. The thick creamy soup had a hint of sweet from the swirl of balsamic reduction and ended with a familiar tang from the crumbled Meredith Dairy goats cheese.
Our second entrée was the beef carpaccio. The paper thin slices of brilliant, ruby red beef dissolved on my tongue in a second. Textural contrasts with some shaved fennel and watercress added layers of flavours which were accentuated by fresh horseradish and beetroot. The dish was finished with a sumptuous drizzle of slow cooked egg yolk. We had barely been there an hour and already we had enjoyed some of my favourites of all time; fresh oysters, champagne and slow cooked egg.
Next up was the confit salmon. A perfect bite of salmon slow cooked at 42 degrees proved to be just as outstanding as our previous dishes. I loved how each dish contained elements of contrasting textures and flavours. Served with the salmon were pickled and charred cucumber and fresh samphire which added both crunchy and salty aspects to the palate. This was all smoothed out beautifully by some dollops of crème fraiche and drizzles of a dill infusion oil.
Unlike many of my fellow pork-obsessive bloggers, I don’t eat a lot of pork and I would rarely choose it unless it was part of a tasting menu. Consequently when I do eat it, it has to be pretty damn good for me to enjoy it. Wild Duck’s confit pork belly is prepared using slow cooking techniques over 16 hours resulting in a buttery soft texture and no greasy porky aftertaste. The crispy skin cracked exuberantly in my mouth making me giggle too loudly thanks my increasingly intoxicated state.
The pork belly was served with a steamed pork bun which for me was adapted to be gluten free by leaving out the dumpling skin and serving me just the stuffing. Some grilled polenta, smooth sweetcorn purée, cubes of warm apple jellies and a crunchy apple and micro herb salad completed the dish.
Wild Duck offer a couple of optional extras with their degustation and in our usual state of gluttony we agreed to order both. The first optional course was a rabbit roulade with dates and pistachio alongside a red wine braised rabbit croquette. This dish was unable to be changed to be gluten free so the chef offered to make me something different.
My replacement dish was a duo of beef. Winter really is the time to get slow cooking and one of the best cuts of beef to slow cook is the cheek. My first time I tried cheek was moons ago prior to my blogging days at the Loose Box in Mundaring and I will never forget this memorable meal. Wild Duck’s dish was similarly heart-warming with wondrous soft shreds of beef cheek accompanying a charred nub of Black Angus fillet. It was served with a fondant potato, beetroot and cauliflower crumble, sousvide honey thyme carrots and a cauliflower purée.
I had restrained from eating for most of the day to save room for dinner and it was becoming progressively obvious to the Boy that I was quite drunk. My voice volume was slowly increasing and my attention to detail to my photography had all but expired. The Boy reached across the table to grab my camera and flipped quickly through some of my shots whilst raising his eyebrows at me. I slurped up my sorbet noisily and returned his gaze with a coy smile.
Consequently details of our final main dish is a little foggier than I would prefer and the angling of my photo is somewhat clumsy. A fillet of crispy skinned duck breast was paired with cubes of grilled speck bacon, aniseed poached pears and braised honey carrots. Coloured smears of carrot purée and creamed peas made this dish quite a substantial one, this wasn’t a degustation where we went home hungry.
Our second optional course was the pre-dessert; a picture perfect lemon soufflé with coconut ice cream. It was powder puff light and I could nearly hear the “poof” as I plunged my spoon in the ramekin. In fact I vaguely recall mimicking that “poof” noise as I tucked into it.
Our evening ended with the Wild Duck’s chocolate delice; a decadent mousse made from cream, eggs and chocolate. Scattered across my plate like Willy Wonka’s garden were wibbly-wobbly strawberry jellies, strawberry sponge and crunchy meringue kisses adorned with blobs of yoghurt parfait, fresh strawberries and bright pink strawberry powder. A bright and cheerful way to end a joyful evening together.
Happy Birthday to my best friend and my one true love. I love you and I love my life with you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Chompchomp paid for this meal out of her own pocket however at the end of the night the Boy reminded her to use their digital version of the Entertainment card to receive a $40 discount of the total bill. Wild Duck 35 Hampden Road, Nedlands WA 6009 | http://www.wildduckrestaurant.com/ $$$$ (Seven course degustation $105, nine course degustation $130, $50 extra for matched wines)
Over recent weeks I have been providing you with insider coverage of the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best; a government initiative to help promote eating locally grown and made produce. I was appointed as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and travelled up to Carnarvon to attend the regional final.
The three other participating regions were Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests and the Great Southern. Each region’s finalist received one-on-one mentoring by their delegated chef to help prepare them for the Grand Finale held at the Perth Cultural Centre on WA Day. On the big day, the Cultural Centre was alive with activity with much to see and do for people of all ages.
The WA Day event was a free event and the Buy West Eat Best tent was packed full of stalls offering tastings of all sorts of local deliciousnesses including banana smoothies, gelato, oils, condiments and best of all, gluten free lupin flour chocolate cake. I was joined by two of my dear friends Foodie Cravings and Perth Munchkin who were also attending as official bloggers representing Perth and the Great Southern.
Each contestant had ninety minutes to prepare their dish from scratch using a variety of ingredients sourced from their region. Rhiannon Birch was competing for the Perth and Surrounds region and her dish was Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours. Much to my approval her dish is entirely gluten free.
Clare King’s dish came from the Great Southern region titled “A Celebration of Beef in Thai style” and was made using a luscious Butterfield beef fillet topped with pearls of Pemberton Finger Limes.
Many of you have already been following on the blog the story of Paul Kelly, the contestant for the Gascoyne region with his Gascoyne tasting plate. This colourful plate included Shark Bay wild King prawns with salsa verde, plantation vegetable gazpacho with Abacus crab sticks, Shark Bay snapper ceviche and some simple pan-fried Shark Bay Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled Gascoyne vegetables.
Competing for the Southern Forests region, the softly spoken Alana Starkie prepared some stunning fresh Southern Forest marron with a Pink Lady apple, avocado and lime salsa. To make the competition even more challenging, throughout the entire cook off the four contestants were individually interviewed by both their chef and the hosts Anna Gare and Don Hancey. I was surprised how well they all kept their cool under pressure and kept their focus on cooking!
The final decision for the winning dish was made by the panel of high profile judges; Guillaume Brahimi, Ralf Vogt and Rob Broadfield. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the packed marquee as each judge carefully tasted the four dishes.
Whilst the quality and standard of each dish was high, there can only ever be one winner and this year the winner was Rhiannon Birch for her Perth dish of Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours.
For the recipes for all the contestants dishes head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.
The Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Finale was a free event held on the 2nd of June 2014 at the Perth Cultural Centre. I would like to thank buy West Eat Best and all the team at Clarity Communications for allowing me to be part of this fabulous WA Signature Dish experience. Also thanks to Paul Kelly and Chef Peter Manifis for putting in such an incredible effort for the Gascoyne region. Fingers crossed for a win next year!
We had packed our bags, dropped the fur-children off at the Vet Hospital for boarding, parked the car in the long-term car park at the airport and were finally ready to check-in for our flight to Exmouth. That was until we found out the bad news; we had missed our flight. I had muddled up our departure times with that of our original booking meaning our plane was well on its way to Exmouth without us. Angry with myself for such stupidity and frustrated that there was no further flights out that day, the last thing I wanted to do was to go home to an empty cat-less house.
The Boy could see I was close to tears and in a humble attempt at diffusing the situation he suggested we go somewhere for a late breakfast and unwind. I felt the need to get away from my familiar surroundings as everything homely reminded me of my mistake. After briefly consulting Urbanspoon on my phone I randomly chose for us to visit Ingredient Tree in Wembley.
The small café was nearly at full capacity with tables of families, couples and the odd loner busily working on their iPad. We seated ourselves at one of the communal tables near the window giving me plenty of natural light, a must for decent food photography!
Ingredient Tree serve Genovese Coffee which is a blend of high quality beans roasted with the aim to produce a one size fits all styled beverage that is suitable to drink both as an espresso as well as something more milky. I ordered my usual short macchiato and although it was a little wait for our coffees to arrive, it was a much welcomed shot of warmth to calm my frazzled nerves. We waited some time to place our orders to be followed by a reasonably longer wait for our meals. I figured that maybe they were not used to a busy Saturday morning however I did note one staff member spent most of his time chatting outside in the sun while customers waited.
The Boy ordered the salmon served with beetroot fritters, horseradish cream and two poached eggs. His fritters had lots of flavour however he felt their consistency didn’t live up to his expectations as they were a little wet and undercooked. He commented he felt the dish had a lot of potential but just wasn’t quite prepared right.
His poached eggs gave a half-sized eruption of yolk porn as some of his yolk had started to solidify. It was still enough of an ooze of goo to satisfy his poached egg cravings.
I ordered the quinoa patties made with quinoa, pumpkin and lentils. It was topped with wilted spinach, slow roasted tomatoes and two poached eggs. A couple of spoonfuls of house made capsicum relish were dolloped on the side for extra flavour. Like the Boy, I also thought my dish had a lot of potential however my quinoa patties were sloppy in texture turning to mush under my fork.
My stress of the morning made me forget to ask for omission of any onion. Lo and behold, I was out of luck for the day as the patties were filled with large chunks of onion. These chunks helped the patties to fall apart even more however this actually was a blessing in disguise as it meant it was easy for me to pick the onion pieces out. The relish added a lovely mustardy sweet flavour to the dish and I am certain if the patties were prepared more lovingly this dish would have been delightful.
It was definitely a morning for a two course breakfast. As you probably already know, most of my breakfast outings end in dessert. In fact most of any outing with me ends in dessert.
And what is the problem with that I ask?
After another delay waiting for service, we were informed that there were no more gluten free cakes or desserts remaining as they had sold out. Looking at the delicious counter of sweets I cannot deny I felt a flicker of anger again at myself…..why do I have to miss out? Damn you gluten!
Thankfully our waiter saved the day as in addition to their own home-baked goodies they stock some of the Rawsome raw desserts. He brought over their product list so I could find one that wasn’t too heavy on the fructose content. I chose the Love Bite slice which one of the items that is free of dates. A lot of types of dried fruit which can run total havoc with my fructose malabsorption so I really try to avoid them. The slice did however contain some agave nectar which also isn’t ideal for me but a small amount is tolerable once in a while.
The Boy chose the Choc Mint Slice which does contain dates so I left it for him to enjoy for himself. We are both big fans of raw desserts and while I know they are often quite high in calories, I love that I never feel any sugar “comedown” after eating them as all their ingredients are natural and unprocessed. Over to the side of the café is a shop section selling a collection of gourmet ingredients from both local and international producers. Of course after we finished eating our treats I couldn’t help myself and went over for a little browse where I found a variety of interesting gluten free products that found their way into my basket.
Ingredient Tree have a number of interesting options for breakfast and I am hoping that I just caught them on an off day. If our dishes were executed better, both would have certainly been worth returning back for. Maybe those sell-out gluten free cakes will bring me back for a second time.Chompchomp dined at Ingredient Tree on her own budget. The rest of her budget was blown in fees in order to be able to catch the next flight out to Exmouth. Ingredient Tree 87a Herdsman Parade, Wembley WA 6014 | (08) 9287 1100 | www.ingredienttree.com | Facebook Price $$ (Meals $13-21)
After a long drive through the pouring rain it was a relief to arrive in Carnarvon ready for the WA Signature Dish regional final. It had been a right kerfuffle getting to our destination with missed flights, flight delays and severe weather warnings but we made it albeit one day late.
We arrived in Carnarvon in the late afternoon and checked into our accommodation at the Best Western Hospitality Inn. Our room was clean and simply appointed with a minibar stocked with nibbles, beer, wine and soft drinks. There were also tea and coffee-making facilities, free WIFI and room service however the internet connection was painfully slow.
On our first night we were a little weary from travelling all day so we ate at the hotel restaurant Sails. Sails is considered one of the more refined dining options in town in addition to being one of the very few restaurants that remain open seven days a week.
Having heard great things about Carnarvon’s fresh seafood it was all I was in the mood for. And the best way to start a seafood feast is with oysters. Now I realise the hot climate of Carnarvon excludes it from farming oysters locally this meant the oysters on Sail’s menu would undoubtedly be imported. However, when I get the fanciful idea of eating oysters I just will not stop until I am satisfied. These giant sized babies came from Frankland Bay in South Australia and were plump, creamy and surprisingly fresh. We enjoyed them served natural with a squeeze of cut lemon.
Before ordering anything else the chef kindly came out to speak with me about suitable gluten free options from his menu. I always appreciate this level of concern as it illustrates to me that they will ensure to take care when preparing my food. Our first dish was a seared prawn salad using local prawns tossed through a mighty sized salad of julienned bacon, roasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and baby spinach leaves. It was finished with a lemon, chilli and coriander dressing. The bacon was an odd addition and one we didn’t expect however being cut into such thin slivers it wasn’t overpowering and added just a hint of flavour with each mouthful.
Our second entrée was the grilled ginger scallops. This dish also has a level of curiosity about it as in addition to the enormous scallops served in the shell, there were extra smaller sized ones buried underneath. It worked out quite good value when you consider the price as there ended up being six scallops in total. It came served upon a scoop of steamed rice and wilted Chinese greens.
An unexpected touch of complementary lemon sorbet was brought to our table in the interlude between our first and second courses. After all the spice and ginger flavours it was a welcoming cleanser to prepare for our main meal.
For mains we both ordered the tropical barramundi. The fillet was grilled lightly, served on a bed of bok choy and topped with lemon butter sauce plus a spoonful of chilli mango salsa. A couple of poached prawns topped this collection of ingredients as a strange afterthought. Whilst the fish was soft and tender within, I felt the combination of lemon butter and mango salsa was too eclectic with only a small amount of each so that neither had the chance to shine. The end result was actually a somewhat bland dish. Such a shame because those simple flavours had a lot of potential.
We ended our night which Sail’s cheese platter for two which considering the price once again this was a generous portion size. The chef ensured to serve the water crackers in a separate bowl to avoid any gluten contamination which reinforced to me what a gluten free friendly place this was. There were four different types of cheese; chunks of tasty cheddar, smoked Dutch, Danish blue and Camembert sat among some pieces of fresh fruit and roasted nuts.
The complimentary breakfast provided with our room was very basic including some sliced toast, fruit and cheese plus an array of cereals. There wasn’t any gluten free bread available. You are able to pay a small amount extra for a hot cooked meal if you prefer but instead I bought some gluten free muffins from the local Woolworth’s supermarket which they grilled for me at no extra charge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Carnarvon and whilst the Best Western is by no means the five-star luxury that I love, it was comfortable and clean with friendly service. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again next time we are in the region.Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s accommodation at Best Western Carnarvon was partly funded for by Buy West Eat Best for my involvement in their WA Signature Dish competition. Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au