Earlier this year I locumed as a cat vet for the Hobart Cat Clinic and discovered a humble little café just up the road called The Picnic Basket. For lunch breaks I found it hard to tear myself away from the clinic as I’m not used to working somewhere as the sole charge vet. I am paranoid that an emergency case might rock up when I’m not there to treat it. Fortunately, the brilliant nurses at the Cat Clinic are very experienced and in all honesty would have been more than capable of holding the fort in my brief absence. After buying take-out lunches for the first week, they encouraged me to walk up to The Picnic Basket and dine in for lunch.
It is a curiously decorated café that feels like a fusion of a corner store, a farmstead living room, a bakery and a café. It is owned by a husband and wife team who are dedicated to promoting local produce and you can actually buy picnic baskets and fill them with take away goods for your own outdoor experience.
For those not wanting to brave the cold Tasmanian outdoors, there are plenty of cosy places to dine inside and it was lovely to sit and sip my coffee with the sun shining through the large ceiling height windows.
The Boy ordered himself a freshly squeezed juice as he doesn’t drink coffee. The juice was made with beetroot, apple and a hint of ginger. He gulped it down with minimal conversation which I always take as a positive sign.
For lunch he ordered the “Gaza Breakfast” which turned out to be a much larger meal than either of us were expecting. I guess this is a good demonstration of the difference between Hobart and Perth prices!
The soft, warmed pita was smeared with hummus and topped with boiled eggs, tomato, cilantro, red onion and a dash of paprika.
I was keen to try the “Miss Watson’s” dish which came with their home-baked gluten free nut seed bread. The moist, protein rich bread was dense and heavy making this a very filling dish. It was piled high with smashed avocado, roasted cherry tomatoes and delightfully squeaky haloumi.
Not knowing how generous the servings would be, I also ordered a side of mushrooms to share. The mushrooms weren’t served separately as I expected but were added onto my toast. The Boy’s Gaza breakfast was more than enough to keep him going so I just ate them all to myself.
The Picnic Basket is located on the southern side of Hobart and the route takes you along a picturesque winding coastal road. It is worth a visit should you have the time during your travels. For those of you who are my regular readers, you are probably thinking I am turning into a broken record by going on about how amazing all the food is in Tasmania. I guess this means you will just have to check it out for yourselves!
The Picnic Basket
176 Channel Highway, Taroona, TAS 7053 | 0477 225 427 | Facebook
For anyone who has gone through the journey of having a back injury you will understand what an ordeal it can be; not just physically but emotionally as well. When I was in my early thirties, a couple of my spine’s intervertebral discs decided to give way while I was in the middle of performing a dental procedure on a dog. It was at a point where my veterinary career was progressing perfectly and I was just about to ask my bosses to buy in as a partner to the practice. I was one of their star employees who happily worked consecutive twelve hours shifts, overtime and after-hours with no complaints.
And then, thanks to my back, it all turned on it’s head. It took me eight grueling weeks to be able to return to work and even then it was only in a part-time capacity. It was over a year before I could go through a full day without severe pain. Chronic pain can often lead to depression and it took me a long time before I could say I felt mentally whole again. Fortunately those dark days are far behind me and my focus on health, nutrition and mobility forms part of every day of my life.
Given my history, I became very concerned this week when I had a sudden onset of back pain with a total inability to bend. I couldn’t even put on a pair of socks! After seeing a doctor, remedial massage therapist and physio along with downing some analgesics, I am relieved to find out it is hopefully just my ol’ faithful disc flaring up again with some muscle spasm to boot. I am hoping this is a better prognosis as I cannot afford to have an extended time off work again!
To assist my body in recovery, I have been nourishing myself with natural anti-inflammatory foods including fresh fish, leafy greens, beetroot, ginger and turmeric. Because the Boy isn’t keen on curry, I had to think hard about how to add turmeric into our daily meals. This inspired me to create a dairy free custard that is also fructose friendly and of course gluten free. It it naturally sweetened and easy to make in the Thermomix. If you don’t have a Thermomix, you can make on your stove top too.
- 2 free range eggs
- 1 vanilla pod, split open and scraped
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 45 grams of a natural sweetener of your preference such as maple syrup, rice malt syrup or coconut sugar
- 50 gm arrowroot or gluten free cornflour
- 400ml can organic coconut milk
- Add all ingredients into your Thermomix mixing bowl and cook for 7min | 90C | Speed 4.
- Once cooked, blend for 4 sec | Speed 6.
- Remove any remaining vanilla pod portions and serve immediately.
At the very tail end of my annual leave I received a spontaneous call from one of my dearest friends and business partner Chris to join her on a lunch date. She was freed of the responsibility of her little offspring for the afternoon and wanted to make the most of it. She wasn’t fussy where we went and let me choose the venue. With so many new bars popping up around town it is hard to keep up despite being a food blogger. One bar that has sparked my interest is Shadow Wine Bar located in the new Alex Hotel. Moving away from the current trend of tight spaces and walk-ins, Shadow Wine Bar fills a large space with dramatic black and white interiors, massively high ceilings and an industrial warehouse-gone-chic feel.
I tend to avoid making an early judgement on the fluidity of service for new venues like this, not only are the staff new but everything is new and everyone deserves time to land on their feet. So I excused our waiter’s error in telling me all the pasta dishes were gluten free along with a dish with a rye crumb. It was even easier to forgive him quickly when the rest of our service was accompanied with smiles and attentiveness.
We started with the potato crisp topped with fresh crab and a lemon aioli. These morsels were a mouthful of flavour however the potato didn’t hold up to the weight of its toppings and became a little soggy in the middle.
The pan-fried haloumi was a squeaky treat matched beautifully with slightly sweet, slightly sour pink grapefruit and peppery fresh watercress. A simple collection of ingredients that balanced elegantly.
The veal carpaccio was the winner of the day. Nearly translucent slices of veal were marbled with spider thin strands of white fat and tore apart like tissue paper across the plate. Truffle mustard drizzled generously on top gave a subtle hint of truffiliciousness.
Shadow Bar’s crispy pork jowl is a must for pork lovers. The crackling was browned to a tooth-chipping, crunchable texture while the underlying unctuous goodness melted in the mouth without any lingering aftertaste.
A meal with Chris is never complete without sweets. In fact, over nearly two decades of friendship I cannot recall ever eating with her and not ingesting something saccariferous. Not that I am complaining because I am no different. After a round of giggles from us both trying to pronounce “tart tartin” properly in French, Chris ordered the pear tart tartin. It was served with tonka bean ice cream which had a similar flavour to vanilla with a hint of caramel.
The only gluten free dessert option was the poached rhubarb served with a scoop of mascarpone and shards of meringue. Whilst my dessert certainly looked the part, I found its flavours to be underwhelming with the creaminess and tartness unbalanced due to a distinct lack of sweetness. It almost felt like there was a missing ingredient.
Our lunch experience at Shadow Wine Bar left me undecided on my opinion so the following day I brought the Boy back there for lunch for a second chance. Our waitress was much more clued on about what was gluten free and sailed me through the menu without hesitation. Sadly only a handful of the small plates could be adapted and despite being a hotel there was no gluten free bread available.
We started with the jamon iberico which was served with fresh bread on the side for the Boy and some very tasty pickles. Like the carpaccio, the meat was high quality and similarly soft and flavourful.
The fish of the day was two fillets of pan-fried King George Whiting with a puttanesca sauce made with olives, eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. I picked out the fructose loaded onions easily. As the Boy devoured his share he wondered why I had any reservations about this venue as he had only experienced winning dishes.
Our next dish was the braised lamb neck ragu and this cemented his positive opinion on Shadow. Served on a bed of soft polenta, the lamb was delicately textured, moist and rich and we both savoured each mouthful.
In contrast to Chris, the Boy doesn’t have a sweet tooth except for his weakness for ice cream. I was happy to settle for some cheese instead especially as I had seen two of my favourites of all time on the menu; namely Manchego and Brillat Savarin. These are two very different cheeses but are both ground-shakingly amazing. The cheeses were served at the perfect temperature to maximise their flavour but sadly there were no gluten free crackers or bread to accompany. I am hoping this is just one small oversight that they plan to resolve.
I am glad I returned back to Shadow Wine Bar as I can now appreciate it has oodles of potential. Housed in an impressive space, with a short to the point menu and serving wines by the glass or carafe Shadow Wine Bar proves that our little city Perth is finally growing up. I am hoping that they will progress to becoming a little more gluten free friendly so that people like me can enjoy more of their European styled menu.
Shadow Wine Bar
214 William Street, Northbridge WA | (08) 6430 4010 | www.shadowwinebar.com.au
Excitement is mounting as the truffle season is about to kick off for the winter. This year West Australia is in for a bumper crop as our conditions have been close to perfect for maximum yield and quality. For those of you who have yet to fall in love with this mysterious black “fruit of a fungus” you are truly missing out. For gourmands around the globe it is highly sought after and has earned the name “black gold” due to it high price. This high value is enhanced by the fact it grows very seasonally and has a short shelf life due to losing its aroma and flavour very quickly.
Every year there is an annual food and wine festival called Truffle Kerfuffle that is held in Manjimup, in the heart of the Southern Forests truffle growing region in WA. The three day festival allows national and international tourists to live it up for a weekend of luxurious truffle excesses. This year’s festival will run over the last weekend of June from the 26th to the 28th of June and tickets to the events are selling out quick.
Many of our state’s top chefs will be attending the event helping promote what an incredible region the Southern Forests has become, not just for their truffles, but for other sought after produce including chestnuts, buckwheat, finger limes, marron, cherries, cheeses and fine wines.
In the lead up to Truffle Kerfuffle I recently attended a preview event truffle masterclass with Chef Kiren Mainwaring from Co-Op Dining. Kiren and I share similar passions when it comes to food and wherever possible he sources his ingredients locally and seasonally. He has always taken such individualised care for my dietary needs, even at big events where it must be such a hassle to make one dish to order.
Being a small group we were taken behind the scenes into the kitchen of Co-Op Dining to get a true chef’s table experience. Not a bad way to spend my rainy Wednesday afternoon indeed!
Kiren talked us through a couple of methods that can be used to preserve truffles as their potency starts to diminish significantly after just four days. Having said that, working in the kitchen of a fine dining establishment means that he is spoilt with the luxury of not needing to preserve his truffles and uses them fresh for the duration of the season.
For those that have dined at Co-op, I imagine you would have already gone goo-goo gaa-gaa over Kiren’s slow cooked egg yolk. He cooks the yolk at 55°C for 45 minutes to yield a yolk that is technically cooked but with the consistency as if it is raw. It makes for a perfect blogger’s yolk porn shot which even in the tight constraints of someone else’s’ kitchen, I simply couldn’t resist.
The yolk snuggled on a bed of broccoli puree surrounded by crispy puffed basmati and buckwheat. This gave the ultimate play on textures with the egg’s creamy silkiness contrasting with the crunchy grains. Generous shavings of fresh black truffle gave this dish an extra depth that rocketed it into absolute heaven.
Our second dish showcased more ingredients from the Southern Forests region that are also seasonal to this time of year. Pemberton grown Jerusalem artichokes formed the base of the dish featuring both as a puree, and also cubed and fried in smoked pork fat for that added oomph of umami flavour. Roast chestnuts signal the beginning of winter for me and added a wondrous nutty element to this dish.
It was finished off with shaved parmesan, crisp onion skins and grated fresh truffle. For this dish Kiren grated the truffle finely as he wanted the truffle flavour to evenly disperse throughout the dish.
It is only three weeks to go until Truffle Kerfuffle and this year I am so excited to be taking my Dad and stepmum along with us. Living in Melbourne, they have never explored outside of Perth and I am nervously proud of what we are soon to show them. They are both well-travelled foodies who have spent much of their careers as fashion designers hitting up the hottest places in the trendiest cities around the world. Hopefully I can impress them!
Truffle Kerfuffle runs from the 26th to the 28th of June 2015. Tickets for the festival and associated events can be purchased from their website at www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au
Check out my comprehensive post from last year’s TK at www.chompchomp.com.au/2014/07/southern-forests-truffle-kerfuffle-truffle-festival-2014
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Truffle Kerfuffle and Offshoot Creative
There were many things that I discovered about Tasmania on our first trip; their weather is unpredictable, their folk are super friendly, their landscape is breathtaking and their food is more than just good, it is brilliant. We were hard pressed to find somewhere that wasn’t fabulous and what I loved most of all was their locally farmed oysters. I became a crazed fool insisting on eating oysters at every opportunity and I struggled to go for more than a a day without fulfilling my addiction.
We were house-siting in the North Hobart area which is a just a stone’s throw away from the CBD. This conveniently allowed me to hit up some of the best places in town without much effort. One cold midweek evening I knocked off for the day from my locum job at the Hobart Cat Clinic and joined the Boy for a brisk walk into town to the Westend Pumphouse. The Pumphouse is a relatively new venue that recently debuted in The Financial Review’s Top Restaurants of Australia.
The restaurant is housed in an impressive open plan industrial space with massive high ceilings, exposed wooden roof beams and a crackling hot open fire in the centre. Our waiter helped us negotiate the wine list to settle on a luscious bottle of local red while he talked us through their menu. Most of their menu focuses on using locally sourced produce which of course won my heart in a second. We started with some natural local oysters,. Plump, creamy and slightly sweet I still have wistful dreams about these beauties.
The octopus was also locally caught and was served charred with Pink eye potatoes, tangy bitter lemon puree and dried olives. This was such a refreshing dish and it matched well with the succulent oysters.
Pumphouse offer a number of small and large share plates including some mouth-watering slow cooked meat options. I saw posted up on the chalkboard near the bar that you can pre-order whole roasted pig served with all the trimmings for $45 per person for groups of nine or more.
Neither of us are really great pork eaters and we happily we settled for the dry aged sirloin; a massive 1.4 kilograms of beef cooked on the bone for maximum flavour and then chopped up into bite sized pieces for more elegant eating. Each cube of tender beef was lavishly drizzled in a toothsome, rich white anchovy sauce. In an attempt to balance out this high protein feast, we also received a small serve of local Pink eye potatoes tossed in cultured butter. It was the perfect nourishment for the unexpected cold windy weather.
Despite feeling like we had nearly eaten half a cow, it was not exactly a surprise we still managed to find room for dessert. The gluten free option was an adapted version of their molasses parfait and was served with smoked apple and blueberries.
Along with oysters, local blueberries became another Hobart daily addiction for me meaning the added novelty of smoked blueberries made this dessert quite interesting. Because my stomach doesn’t tolerate high fructose apple I spent a fair few minutes trying to unsuccessfully separate the apple from the blueberries before giving in and letting the Boy eat the rest of the fruit while I tucked into the silky parfait. 😉
Westend Pumphouse is a funky, modern eatery with a casual vibe serving simple local produce. I could have easily seen myself relaxing many a Sunday session there if I was a Hobart resident. They offer a changing menu and have a dynamic team that obviously love what they do, and do it well.
Westend Pumphouse 105 Murray Street, Hobart TAS | (03) 6234 7339 | www.pumphouse.com.au