When I find something I love, I complete submerge myself into a level of addiction that often needs to be controlled by an external party, usually the Boy. Or sometimes it is controlled by the increasing numbers on my bathroom scales. Nevertheless, over the years I have come to accept that this is part of my personality and provided I have someone to check me into line when I get too carried away, it is a quick way to brighten up my day. Some of my obsessions are long lasting and others come and go like fashion so I thought I would share with you my top five gluten free indulgences for Winter 2014.
1. Manjimup Black truffles
I am not a fan of winter, I really feel the cold and spend a large portion of this time of year huddled in front of a heater reluctant to move. However there is one highlight of winter which is the truffle season. For the duration of the three month truffle season our household goes truffle mad; chasing degustations, festivals and buying any fresh truffled product we can get our hands on. My fridge will be continuously stocked with truffle butter, truffle mustard, and truffle aioli and sometimes even some real fresh black truffle. One of my favourite ready made products is the truffle aioli made by the Truffle and Wine Company. It is knee-staggeringly truffilicious and fortunately I can purchase it throughout winter from a local Vic Park store called Nosh Gourmet.
2. Hot Pot Popcorn
Popcorn would have to come in at a close number two for this winter. It’s somewhat healthy, naturally gluten free and incredibly moreish. But when you add the fact that Hot Pot’s popcorn is popped locally in Perth and is not mass produced, it ticks even more boxes for me. Hot Pot Popcorn have a number of addictable flavours with their Peri peri popcorn being one of their most popular. I am a slightly sweet, slightly salty fan but I recently tried their cinnamon flavour and it was tha bomb! It’s available at the Manning Farmers Market and a few independent grocers, head to their website for more information.
3. Pana Chocolate Sour Cherry + Vanilla
Chocolate has been a staple food for me since I could walk but more recently I have seriously got into eating raw chocolate and prefer it to the more mainstream stuff. The problem with this is that most raw chocolate is sweetened with agave syrup. Now whilst this is gluten free, agave is about 90% fructose and whenever I eat significant quantities my gut becomes very unhappy. Pana Chocolate is a Melbourne based company that makes handmade raw chocolate using all natural ingredients. One of their flavours; the Sour Cherry and Vanilla 60% cacao is made without added agave and uses coconut nectar as a sweetener instead. Totally fructose friendly, woot!
4. Au Naturale juices
After initially trialling a three day juice cleanse complementary of Au Naturale Juice back in February this year, juice cleansing has become a monthly routine for me. I never thought I would be able to survive for three days without eating solids as I am the type of person who is already planning what to eat for dinner in the morning as I’m eating my breakfast. Food spends a large part of its time taking up my subconscious thoughts and I imagined I would be one of the LAST people to be up for a juice cleanse. Let alone repeating one every month! Yet now, each month I look forward to the energy it injects into me and the “rest” that I give my overworked digestive system seems to do wonders for my allergies, skin and gut health. I have continued to stick with using Au Naturale for my cleanses as the company’s owner Jac is always happy to adapt her juices individually to be more fructose friendly. Her cleanses are all-inclusive with everything you need and you can also include extra options such as herbal teas, miso paste, flavoured broths and nut milks.
5. Warm Spiced Rice pudding from the Tapas Man at the Vic Park Farmers Market
I cannot describe how happy I am that we now have our very own Farmer’s Market in Vic Park. My progression to become someone who takes eating seasonally and locally as a way of life has become so much easier. The Boy and I look forward to a market stall breakfast each week, come rain or shine, and enjoy that we can plan our week’s meals based on whatever looks good at the fresh produce stalls. The Boy will alternate between a number of the different food vendors each week and has worked his way around many of the options trying vegetarian Banh Mi’s from Baguette Me Not, Mexican baked eggs from That Little Mexican Place and Perfect Poffertje’s Dutch pancakes. In contrast I have been very repetitive with my breakfast choice. Call it my final addiction for winter; my breakfast every week is the Tapas Man’s warm spiced pudding with poached fruits and toasted almonds. Once you have tried it you will struggle to order anything else. Unfortunately they are not at the markets every week so check their Facebook page before you get your hopes up!Chompchomp did not receive any payment or gifts in lieu of this post and it is written purely because she wanted to share her obsessions with her readers. Chompchomp accepts no responsibility for any subsequent addiction that may develop in any of her readers in the aftermath from reading this post. She advises that the purchase of any of the above mentioned products is done at the individual’s risk.
Back in March I attended a two-day feline veterinary conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Boy joined me at the end of the conference where we stayed on for an extra day to explore the city together before flying onto Vietnam for our anniversary holiday. As I’m not accustomed to sitting still for long periods, by the time the Boy arrived after my two conference days had finished I was full of energy like crazed, caged animal. We had only allocated one day for KL so to cover as much ground as possible I planned a busy schedule of eating with some sight-seeing and shopping thrown in for good measure.
We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was where the conference was held and was conveniently located within walking distance to the shopping areas and the monorail station. Our room was one of the “Lifestyle Rooms” which overlooks the beautiful Petronas Towers. The room gave us access to the Lifestyle Club floors however I felt this probably was a waste of our money as I only went in there once. The bathroom had a good range of Tokyomilk amenities which were refreshed daily.
The breakfast on offer in the club lounge was much smaller than the buffet downstairs and wasn’t worth returning for. We didn’t get a chance to check out their free afternoon cocktail hour. The gym was huge and certainly one of the better equipped, more modern hotel gyms that I have seen. It was nearly as big as my regular gym back home. The breakfast buffet had all the usual suspects that I would expect in a South-east Asian hotel however I would have preferred better quality. They had gluten free bread and muffins available on most albeit not all days.
1. Local breakfast snack at Nyonya Colours, Suria KLCC
Unless I’m staying five-star, hotel breakfasts are not really a deal clincher for me as I prefer to get out and about to sample the city’s cuisine. We skipped our hotel breakfast and headed off on foot towards the Petronas Twin Towers. Located at the base of the twin towers is Suria KLCC; six heavenly levels of shopping with something for everyone ranging from high ends brands like Tiffany, Chanel, Gucci and LV through to some more affordable fashion, sport wear and accessories stores. The Boy was kind enough to tolerate a short spurt of shopping before stopping in at Nyonya Colours for a quick morning snack.
I flashed my home-made Malaysian gluten free, fructose friendly eating card to the cashier to which he initially frowned and shook his head. After giving my request more thought he then pointed to the only two suitable options in the glass cabinet; a type of fish cake wrapped in banana leaf called otak otak and a rose sago dessert. Beggars can’t be choosers I thought to myself so I ordered them both.
If they are made traditionally, Otak otak should be naturally gluten free but as always if you are Coeliac or very sensitive please ensure to check with the seller before you buy. Otak otak are a type of spicy fish cake made with coconut milk, shrimp paste, egg, rice or tapioca flour and spices such as kaffir lime, turmeric, lemongrass and chilli. They can often contain some shallots so for those sensitive to onion be aware of this.
Rose sago is another traditional Malaysian dessert made from sago, coconut milk, palm sugar and fresh coconut. It is flavoured with rose essence for a subtle hint of floral flavour. I have been a big fan of eating these “kuih” since I first tried Red Hot Spatula’s some years back.
The Boy wasn’t keen on any of the vegetarian options from Nyonya Colours so after I finished my otak otak we headed downstairs to the food hall in search of something else for him to eat. As we entered the basement area I saw a post office and dashed over to send postcards home to family and friends. Meanwhile the Boy found a food stall serving some vegetarian sushi. Whilst the stall holder nodded to me that his selection was gluten free, I didn’t want to take the risk it as there was some suspect looking marinated tofu inside that looked like it contained soy sauce.
As the Boy sat down to eat his breakfast, my eyes gazed around the mall and caught sight of a brightly lit Garrett’s popcorn store. I have been lusting over this world famous popcorn for a very long time and was dying to try it. I ran over to the store like an excitable child and ordered a large bag of their popular Chicago mix to eat later back in the hotel room. Most of Garrett’s popcorn flavours are gluten free but once again be sure to double check before you order. Oh, and another warning…it is very addictive and once you open the packet you need to be prepared to be unable to stop until it’s all gone.
2. Petronas Twin Towers
Our first touristy stop was the Petronas Twin Towers; KL’s 88 floor 452 metre tall skyscraper. We were on a fairly tight schedule so had I pre-booked our tickets to go up to the top online the day before. For those less organised there are also a small allotment of tickets available every morning at the ticket counter but get there early as they sell out quickly. The tickets cost 80 RM per person.
Our journey consisted of two parts; the first was up to the 41st level where the twin towers are joined by a 58 metre sky bridge. We were given around ten minutes or so to explore the bridge and take photos.
After this we were escorted to the 68th floor which is the highest point in the building that the general public are permitted. Once at the top we were left to our own devices to explore, read the display information and take in the 360 degree view of Kuala Lumpur CBD.
After our Petronas experience was over we headed back down to the ground level to find ourselves a taxi to Batu caves. On our way we passed a macaron stall allowing me to have a quick impromptu mac attack. Well, it’s not like I could walk past and not try a couple of flavours, could I?
3. Batu caves
Our next stop was the Batu caves. These caves are accessible by either taxi or train with a substantial difference in price. We paid about 80 RM for one way by taxi however we made the mistake of catching it outside our hotel, you could probably get a metered taxi for half the price if you were a bit savvier.
The Kommuter train line runs right out to the caves with a direct stop and our return trip on the train only set us back 4 RM each. We are not the biggest fans of public transport and found the taxi much easier and more relaxing. Additionally the connection from the Kommuter train to the Monorail at KL Sentral station wasn’t the easiest to find as the signposting was quite poor.
There are a few noteworthy things to see at the Batu caves. Your first hurdle is to climb the 272 steps to get to the caves. There is no lift available which is worth knowing in advance if you are injured, infirm or wheelchair bound. At the foot of the stairs is the world’s tallest statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war. He stands nearly 43 metres tall and it took 300 litres of gold paint to paint him!
After spending a few days cooped up in lectures, the stair climb was just the workout that I needed. I do have to confess that we both stopped halfway to catch our breath! Dotted all up the stairs were a multitude of long-tailed macaques all scampering about trying to forage amongst the rubbish left by messy humans.
The Cathedral Cave located at the top of the stairs is a huge area with an impressive high ceiling and was filled a number of Hindu statues and ornate shrines although they were not very well maintained with rubbish littered about the place.
After walking through the Cathedral cave, we also took a tour through the Dark Cave. Tours cost 35 RM per adult and last about an hour. Our tour guide Zarris was an entertaining chap who spoke excellent English and was very informative. In contrast to the cultural experience of walking through the temple, the Dark Cave tour is focussed on educating about conservation. It highlights some of the intriguing invertebrate wildlife living in the caves and if you are lucky you might get to sight a bat or two. We also got to view some beautiful large stalagmite and flow stone formations.
On our way to the Batu train station to return back to the city centre, the Boy stopped at one of the street food vendors to grab a quick on-the-go snack. Unfortunately the stall holder couldn’t read any of my translated eating cards meaning I couldn’t identify whether anything was gluten free.
Instead I settled for some durian popcorn. I can see why some people go nuts for this fruit, it has a very distinct and pungent flavour!
4. Shopping at the Pavilion and a Hello Kitty coffee at Komugi Cafe
My next checkpoint was to buy myself a Hello Kitty latte. As many of you know, I am a self-confessed crazy cat lady and whenever I’m on holidays I need to get a kitty fix from somewhere. A few weeks back I had seen a picture of cat coffee art at Komugi Café on my Instagram newsfeed and was determined to head there and score one for myself.
Komugi Café is a Japanese bakery selling a variety of Japanese baked goods including a lot of different types of breads and pastries. Regrettably none appeared to be gluten free so we settled on some chocolates instead.
The coffee tasted a lot milkier and was weakly flavoured, quite a contrast to my normal preferences. However the pure novelty of having a Hello Kitty face decorated in my coffee’s foam made this one of the best coffees I have ever had! 😉
Komugi is located in the Pavilion shopping centre which is also multi-level and has a different collection of shops to that in Suria KLCC. After doing a spot more shopping we were ready for something more substantial to eat having only nibbled on things throughout the day.
5. Jalan Alor Hawkers food
It was a short walk from the Pavilion to Jalan Alor where there is a wide variety of street food with prices that won’t break the travel budget. I brought with me all my translated eating cards written in Malaysian, Chinese and Thai and this made it a bit easier to find someone willing to help us.
Gluten free alcohol options are grim with most hawker restaurants only serving beer. I was happy to abstain and enjoy a fresh young coconut instead. Veterinary conferences can be quite heavy going with a lot of alcohol drinking so I’m sure my liver appreciated some time off.
Before choosing our dinner location we started off with some grilled corn and sambal stingray. After showing the stall holder my gluten free eating card I watched them carefully while they prepared our dishes to ensure there wasn’t any gluten containing sauces like soy added. The sting ray was a bit of a disappointment as it wasn’t as spicy as that I’ve had in Singapore and the meat wasn’t tender and flaky.
Our next round of meals were from Restoran Sun Chui Yuen who were very happy to accommodate and help choose some gluten free dishes for me. We ordered steamed ginger crab, prawns with egg yolk, fried tofu and fried rice. As we looked around us we saw that we had ordered a lot more dishes than any of our adjacent tables despite it just being for the two of us. Locals pointed at all our food and laughed while they rubbed their bellies to indicate our greediness. We smiled back sheepishly.
Whilst I had tried my best to explain to our waiter about potential contamination of gluten in food, this is the hardest part of ordering in a foreign country. Many waiters will understand about not including ingredients with gluten, but to ensure the frying oil and the chopping board is clean is much more difficult.
Later that night I did get a reaction however thankfully it wasn’t too severe and I am guessing it would have just been in the deep fryer rather than actually in the food. I should have used my common sense and stuck with steamed dishes.
6. Night cap at Marini’s on 57 Sky bar
The fact that the locals at Jalan Alor thought our eating habits were hilarious were well founded. We were feeling very full and ready for late night cap before hitting the sack. Before we did, I wanted to show the Boy how beautiful the Petronis Towers looked all lit up at night so we walked back to the city centre for a drink at Marini’s on 57 Sky bar.
Marini’s is located on the 57th level of Petronis Tower 3 adjacent to the Twin Towers and gives a spectacular view of the building and city below. It is claimed to be Malaysia’s highest rooftop bar and has floor to ceiling glass windows to maximise on the view. Marini’s has three areas with a funky bar, Italian restaurant and cigar lounge.
We made ourselves comfortable at the bar and I ordered a Mary’s Melon cocktail; made with 42 below Manuka honey vodka, Midori melon, rosemary syrup and vanilla syrup and garnished with a rosemary stalk and chunks of honey dew. Not exactly a fructose friendly drink but it was completely worth it.
Whilst it wasn’t easy to find a gluten free Kuala Lumpur; with eating cards in hand things were made a bit easier for me. For those foodies not restricted by the shackles of food intolerances it is definitely a city worth eating your way around. Street food vendors are everywhere and I wish I could have sampled more dishes. Alas I have learnt that whilst I can tolerant a bit of fructose here and there, gluten is my enemy and is simply not worth the pain.
Suria KLCC Shopping Centre | www.suriaklcc.com.my/index.html Petronis Twin Towers | Lower ground level, Petronis Twin Towers, KLCC 50088 Kuala Lumpur | +603 2331 8080 | www.petronastwintowers.com.my Jalan Batu Caves, 68100 Jalan Batu Caves, Selangor | +603 6189 6284 | en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batu_Caves | Dark Cave Educational Tour, Batu Caves | www.darkcavemalaysia.com Komugi Café | Lot 24/1A, Tokyo Street, Level 6, Pavilion Shopping centre, Kuala Lumpur | +603 214 80369 | www.komugi.com.my Jalan Alor Street Food | Jalan Alor Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur Marini’s on 57 | Level 57, Menara 3 Petronis, Persiaran KLCC, 50088 Kuala Lumpur | +603 2386 6030 | www.marinis57.com
There are a small handful of restaurants dotted around Perth that I have particularly soft spot for. The mention of their name will always bring a smile to my face and propositions to return will always be met with a resounding yes. Must Wine bar is one of these venues. I have enjoyed countless meals in this classic French bistro with friends and family alike and I feel that I can always depend upon them to deliver polished service and quality dishes. Of course this meant that upon receiving an invitation to return to sample their new Bistro lunch special I was quick to schedule this lunch date in.
Whilst our bistro lunch was kindly on the house, the Boy and I wanted more than just two courses for no other reason than we are greedy. I am not sure what has overcome us both this winter but we have both been eating like there is no tomorrow. We started off with some freshly shucked oysters and Must’s famous chicken liver parfait.
I am a total purist when it comes to my oysters and will always be satisfied if they are served to me natural however the Boy wanted to try something different so we also ordered some Rockefeller oysters grilled with spinach, Pernod cream and Gruyère. Whilst the flavours of the rich cream and Gruyère were luscious, I remained a loyal fan to the naked oysters. Each one of my oysters still had a pool of fresh sea water revealing to me just how freshly shucked they were. Exquisite. A couple of slurps and it was all over.
I have had the pleasure of devouring Must’s chicken liver parfait on many occasions. It has the same smearable smoothness of my mother’s homemade version. Eating it conjures up comforting memories of my childhood at Christmas time when Mum would made enough parfait to feed an army yet there were only three of us. Mind you, it never went to waste.
The Boy was provided with soft slices of toasted brioche however as there was no gluten free equivalent I was happy enough to make do with the rice crackers provided. After sectioning off a non-contaminated gluten free portion for myself I proceeded to get quite excited by my feelings of nostalgia. It wasn’t long before my flying hands has sent the Boy’s water glass tumbling across the table onto his brioche and separate portion of parfait. Ooops! No more brioche for him now!
After a weekend at the Truffle Kerfuffle festival my stomach was craving something simple. I ordered the Sirloin steak with frites and béarnaise sauce; a classic French dish that is one of my French-born father’s favourites. My steak was cooked rare exactly as I had requested and was ever so juicy and flavoursome. The béarnaise sauce was rich and buttery with a lovely sweet aniseed aroma from the fresh tarragon.
The Boy opted for the char-grilled Huon Tasmanian salmon served on a bed of creamy lemon risotto with a fennel and caper salad. His choice was also gluten free allowing me to be able to sneak a couple of mouthfuls as he reached over and simultaneously stole some of my frites. His fish was tender soft with a crispy skinned surface.
For dessert the Boy chose the warm chocolate moelleux with white chocolate ice cream. This wasn’t a gluten free option so I didn’t get to sample its oozing deliciousness. Unlike me, the Boy isn’t a big fan of cakes or puddings and as I crooned over the molten chocolate centre erupting out from the centre he didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Despite being relatively un-fazed by the beauty of chocolate lava, he barely uttered a word as he scooped up spoonful after spoonful until his plate was empty. It was obviously not THAT bad! 😉
After taking all my food photos I proceeded to fall into a similarly silent food trance as I golloped up my own sweet treat. Trust a French bistro like Must to excel at making a stellar brulée.
I loved the layering of textures commencing with a crisp sesame snap on top of smooth raspberry sorbet leading to a translucently thin coating of caramel and finally ending in the smoothest of custard base.
After allowing ourselves to be blissfully ignorant to the world while we feasted in the warmth of the restaurant, it was hard to imagine that we had to return back to the real world of boring Saturday chores and errands. Knowing I still needed the energy to get through a big list before the day was over I ordered my usual coffee; a short macchiato. And of course I didn’t need to say to our waiter “not topped up”, these guys know what a REAL short mac is!
Must Wine bar are offering an $80 bistro lunch for two special which includes two courses with a glass of wine for two people. The menu is changed daily and customers have the choice of ordering an entrée and main, or a main and dessert. This special will run 7 days a week until November this year. Booking are recommended.Chompchomp was an invited guest of Must Wine bar and received the $80 bistro lunch for two as a gift. She was in no way obliged to write a favourable review in exchange for this free feed. Being the over-indulgent person she is, a two course lunch wasn’t sufficient enough for her large appetite and she was happy to pay for her additional dishes at the above indicated prices. Must Wine bar 519 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9328 8255 | www.must.com.au
I realise everyone has their sad story to tell at some point in their life but I have to be honest with you, this past fortnight has been really tough going for me. One of my friends was tragically killed in a horrific car accident at the tender age of 27 years. She was a head strong and outspoken girl, much like myself at times with a heart of gold. She was also a fervent lover of animals and we totally connected on these two levels. She cared for her fur-kids with the utmost level of love and attention and her death left many of us feeling numb in disbelief. It wasn’t until her funeral that it finally sunk in for many of us, we would never see her smiling face again. As I watched my dear friends pluck up their courage to give their eulogies before hundreds of mourners, it was as touching as it was heartbreaking.
In a desperate attempt to soothe my grieving soul, I was inspired to create a comforting dish that I have lusted after for weeks; truffled mac and cheese. After all my dairy indulgences at the Truffle Kerfuffle food festival I needed to make a version of this homely food without punishing my immune system. And here it is; my gluten free truffled vegan mac and cheese.
You will be surprised at the level of cheesy flavour this dish imparts. The Boy is lucky enough to be blessed with no food intolerances and the concept of a vegan mac and cheese sounded like total gobbledegook to him. Despite his apprehension that I wouldn’t be able to prepare him something worth eating, he managed to devour not just his own serve but wolfed down the extra bowl that I prepared for the following night’s dinner.
For my pasta I used some Barilla gluten free elbows that the lovely people at Barilla sent to me to try a few months back. For those of you who have tried gluten free pasta before, you will appreciate that achieving an al-dente texture is not that easy and many brands will go from chewy and hard to literally falling part in the space of a few seconds. The Barilla pasta cooked to a beautiful texture and I honestly think you could serve it up without telling anyone it’s gluten free and no one would know.
I finished off this dish with a combination of truffle oil and grated fresh Manjimup black truffles. When it is not truffle season, you can opt for using just truffle oil. Keep your left over fresh truffle in a sealed container of uncooked rice to allow the truffle aroma to impart into the rice.
- Packet Barilla gluten free pasta elbows
- ¾ cup raw pine nuts
- 1&3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup of grapeseed oil
- 1.5 tablespoons gluten free corn flour/starch
- ¼ cup of nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon of white or rice miso
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon of thyme
- Truffle oil and fresh black truffle for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Soak pine nuts in water for 2-3 hours or overnight. Drain and add to blender. Blend until crumbly.
- In a heavy saucepan, combine almond milk, oil and corn flour and stir until cornflour dissolved. Bring to simmer over high heat. Once cornflour totally dissolved add mixture to blender. (Note make sure you check your blender is heat-resistant. I use my Omniblend blender which is resistant to very high temperatures).
- Add nutritional yeast, miso, lemon juice, ½ tablespoon of thyme and salt into blender and blend on high until smooth.
- Meanwhile cook pasta elbows as per packet directions. Drain pasta.
- Place cooked pasta in ovenproof bowls and top with blended sauce mixture.
- Cook in the preheated oven for 15-25 minutes or until top becomes crunchy and slightly browned.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with generous amounts of truffle oil. Shave fresh truffle if available lavishly over the top.
- Enjoy while it’s hot!
This is an original recipe by Chompchomp Barilla gluten free pasta to try without any obligation to develop a recipe or give a favourable review. Regrettably they didn’t include a free truffle to sample as well. The black truffle she used in this recipe was given as part of attending the Hunt and Harvest dinner at the Truffle Kerfuffle festival in Manjimup. For any future companies that wish for Chompchomp to sample their product, please be advised that she is happy to accept any samples of fresh black truffles that they may want her expert opinion on. This will include samples of truffle butter, truffle cheese and any other gluten free truffle product.
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
My friends and family will tell you that I have always been an enthusiastic and excitable person. My facial features and hands rarely remain expressionless and I often suffer from a lack of volume control. There are some things in my life that can further amplify these personality traits and I have a tendency to obsess over them. To name a few. Cats. Raw chocolate. Popcorn. Running. Mushrooms. Slow cooked eggs. And black truffles. My black truffle addiction gains force each year as I seek out bigger and better truffle experiences.
For those not in the know I am not referring to a type of chocolate. Black truffles are weird looking balls of fungus that grow underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. They are a highly sought after delicacy and sell for thousands of dollars per kilo. Truffles only grow for a very limited season over wintertime and do not hold a very long shelve life.
The Southern Forests region in Western Australia has proven to be the prime location to grow this “black gold” with 80% of the Southern hemisphere’s black truffle coming from this small but highly productive region. To celebrate the truffle season each year, there is a three day truffle festival held called Truffle Kerfuffle which is dedicated to showcasing the abundance of produce from the Southern Forests region with the black truffle being on centre stage.
This year I journeyed down to Manjimup for the full weekend to get the entire truffle experience. Our first evening celebrations kicked off with the sell-out Hunt and Harvest dinner. This was a luxurious affair of six courses and matched wines with every dish enhanced extravagantly with lavish servings of fresh, aromatic truffle. At each table setting we were even given a 20 gram fresh truffle to take home.
Whilst the truffle remained the shining star of the show, each course also utilised some of the best produce this region has to offer including marron, rainbow trout and crunchy sweet apples.
It was hard to pick a highlight for the evening but for me it was Philipe Mouchel’s Manjimup Hampshire Grass fed beef. The beef was prepared two ways; a tender soft roasted strip loin with rich, braised short ribs. It was served on a bed of Southern Forest celeriac purée with a red wine sauce and of course shavings of black truffle.
The cheese course was spectacular in appearance with each platter topped with giant sized shards of gluten free whey lavosh. Hidden under the lavosh sat rolls of Bannister Downs curd which had been delicately wrapped in paper thin slices of truffle. It was a night of excess and was well worth the expense.
The next day I woke up nursing a sizey hangover but the anticipation of more truffle feasting to come it made things seem a lot easier to get going. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on anything so we headed back to Fonty’s Pool early in the day for the festival part of the weekend celebrations. We started with a naughty breakfast of truffled popcorn from the Taste of Balingup stall.
Freshly popped corn tossed in truffle butter and topped with grated truffle? Oh my! It was out of this world. I have to confess to you that with the Boy’s help I may have eaten at least half a dozen serves over the course of the weekend. And I could have easily eaten more.
The Farmer’s market was filled with a number of stalls selling produce from the Southern Forest region with a strong focus on truffle. There were a great variety of gourmet hot food stalls too which led me to the compulsion to try as much dishes as I humanly could. Thankfully most of the stalls had a gluten free option so I didn’t miss out on much!
Whilst the truffle popcorn was obviously my favourite, some other addictive bites included the marron and truffle stuffed potatoes, Kent Street Deli’s fall apart beef cheeks with truffle mash and Pata Negra’s lusciously smooth pate. I was impressed that David Coomer’s wife was kind enough to bring gluten free crackers to the festival to accompany the pate for those Coeliacs in need!
Running at half hour intervals throughout the two days were truffle hunts held on one of the surrounding truffle farms. The hunt is conducted a short bus ride away from the festival and it is the best way to learn more about this interesting industry.
As black truffles grow underground they are not that easy to find. In Manjimup, truffle farmers spend time training their dogs to be able to sniff out the treasure without damaging it. We got to meet Latte the truffle dog, a very placid and patient boy who liked to live his life in the slow lane.
Latte would carefully walk under the oak trees to smell where the truffles lay and when he found one he would gently paw at the ground once or twice then look expectantly at his owner for a treat. After half an hour or so, he had helped his owner find a small bag full of walnut sized truffles. An impressive haul when you consider they sell on the retail market for over $2000.
Whilst the main group were busy watch Latte at work, I noticed the Boy was lingering back from the crowd looking somewhat suspicious. As I glanced back to see what he was up to I saw him flick a clod of moss off the ground with his foot and his face lit up with surprise.
I toddled over to see what he found and saw an enormous black shadow laying underneath the red dirt and bright green moss. It was a giant sized truffle that outsized all of the truffle dog’s truffles by far! Looks like the Boy has found his new calling. My truffle snuffling husband. I married well. As I sadly handed over the weighty specimen to its rightful owner I secretly hoped he would exchange one of the smaller golf ball sized truffles as payment but alas all he offered was one of Latte’s liver treats. Erm, no thankyou!
After our truffle hunt we met up with my dear friend Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse for a Masterclass with Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse and Paul Wyman from Colonial Brewery. They teamed together to show us that food and drink matching isn’t just for wine but can easily be done with craft beers.
Unfortunately for me, Colonial cannot produce any gluten free beers but Hadleigh was thoughtful enough to source some locally produced gluten beers for me from Billabong Brewery. It was a joy to watch two masters at their craft talk so passionately about their industries and it reminded me that it is important to always follow your dream.
Hadleigh created a two course journey matched with three rounds of Colonial beers. Whilst I didn’t get to try Colonial brew, the Boy is quite the beer expert and was happy to inform me they got his fussy tick of approval. He enjoyed their complexity in flavour and was inspired to make sure we visit their brewery next time we are in Margaret River.
For our third and final festival day, I had booked tickets for the Southern Forests Farmers Long Table lunch. This was a much more casual affair than the higher profile Hunt and Harvest dinner which made a nice contrast in experiences.
Our table was adorned with an abundance of locally sourced fresh produce including potatoes, kale and silver beet. The lunch pulled on the talents of three amazing WA chefs; Kiren Mainwaring from Co-op Dining, Joel Valvasori from Lalla Rookh and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio.
Every ingredient used in the three course lunch excluding staples such as sugar, flour and salt were sourced from the Southern Forest region. Kiren’s dish included one of his signature elements; a slow cooked egg. This was paired with a savoury meringue, cauliflower puree, shaved cauliflower and of course, fresh truffle. It was a wondrous play on textures with a layer of subtle sweetness coming from the gelatinous yolk and the air-puff crisp meringue.
There was a brief interlude before main course for local potato growers Carlo and Bob Pessotto to talk to us about the diverse range of potatoes available in Australia. We were served two potatoes; a Kipfler and a Laura. They were roasted and served with a spoonful of molten butter drizzled on top. They wanted to use this as a way to highlight that there can be such a range in flavour and texture between the different potato varieties and encouraged us to try experimenting with eating more types.
Joel’s dish of ricotta gnocchi, lamb and mushroom ragu and fresh truffle effectively silenced the table for minutes as everyone was too busy tucking into its deliciousness. It was just what the cold winter weather commanded and was the perfect way to warm our heart and soul.
He adapted my dish to be gluten free by replacing the gnocchi with thick, creamy polenta. The polenta partially soaked up all the richly flavoured juices from the ragu meaning there was no missing out for this gluten free girl.
Sophie’s dessert utilised the vibrant coloured local Pink Lady apples topping a hazelnut and frangipani tart on a short crust pastry with clotted cream and shavings of truffle.
My gluten free version omitted the pastry and my apple doubled in sized in comparison to everyone else’s. Many of you know that apples are not ideal for a fructose malabsorber however I was prepared to tough it out after slugging some glucose tablets down my throat. Glucose can help with absorption of fructose to an extent. If only there was a pill to reverse the effect of eating gluten how much easier would life be? As the lunch came to a close, we were offered to help ourselves to the produce on the table. I plopped a number of those tasty local potatoes in our bag with the plans to devour them for dinner at our chalet that evening.
Our basic chalet back in Pemberton didn’t have an oven in its kitchen but it did have a pot belly stove. Upon our return from the festival that afternoon, it didn’t take the Boy long to get the fire roaring. I smothered the potatoes in some truffle butter that we bought earlier that day, wrapped them in foil and poked them deep into the hot coals.
What was I saying about the simple things in life? After a weekend of eating decadently with lunches and dinners prepared by famous chefs, it was such pleasure going back to basics. Once our hot potatoes were cooked, I added more spoonfuls of truffle butter and cheekily grated fresh truffle on top. That was our dinner for the evening. It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.Truffle Kerfuffle truffle festival 2014 prices: General entry Weekend Pass – Adult $30, Child $15 Hunt & Harvest Dinner $220 including wine Truffle Hunt $40 Masterclasses ranged from $65-145. My Masterclass cost $85 Farmers Long Table Lunch $125 In addition to all her dietary issues, Chompchomp also suffers from a serious condition called FOMO, or Fear-of-missing-out. Consequently she had no desire to wait and see what events she may or may not receive invitations to via her blog and promptly booked her TK weekend for full price on the first day the tickets were released. And it was worth every cent. Trustee Bar InContro Grossi Restaurants Millbrook Winery Taste of Balingup Kent Street Deli Pata Negra Restaurant Amuse Co-op Dining Lalla Rookh