This year I return to join the team of bloggers and follow the journey of the WA Signature Dish Competition 2015. Many of you will remember my comprehensive coverage of last year’s competition which included a trip up to the stunning Gascoyne region where I went on my own paddock to plate experience meeting the local farmers and producers in person. I visited a number of banana plantations, ate chocolate pudding fruit straight from the tree and even got to climb on board a crabbing boat.
The WA Signature Dish is an annual cooking competition that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce. The competition is open to amateur cooks who must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions. Two contestants from each region will be chosen to compete in the Semi Final cook-off event on the 14 October in Perth.
I am an eternal sufferer of FOMO (the fear of missing out). This terrible affliction of mine means that to make the simple decision on where to go out for dinner becomes a complicated task involving restaurant shortlists, reading menus in advance and scanning social media for evidence that I’m not missing out eating somewhere else.
But now I have found the perfect solution to this ailment; why should I limit myself to dine at just one single venue per outing when I can go on a progressive dinner and enjoy three restaurants in one night?
The Leederville Food Safari offer progressive dinners that run over about three hours and visit three of the most popular restaurants in Leederville; Ria Malay Kitchen, Kitsch Bar and Foam Coffee Bar. To make the night even more interesting, instead of walking between venues the guests are transported to each restaurant in a rickshaw.
The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
I owe you, my dear readers a small apology. Many of you may have noticed that my recent posts on Chompchomp have been fewer and far between and are often written using content that dates further back than I would prefer. For this I am truly sorry. If the lack of reading has bothered you, I can assure you that the frustration is mutual. Whilst I hate to go on like a broken record and whinge incessantly, the reality is that my slipped disc in my back has made our dining experiences virtually non-existent. Needless to say, life goes on around me and consequently my list of new venues in Perth that I want to visit is growing at an alarming rate.
They say weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. It has been two years since I married my long-time love in Thailand and this saying rang true right down to the last minute. Staying on a positive note, it was the best side of my family and friends that remain closest to my heart. One of the most supportive and loving people among these heroes was my Dad.
Prior to our wedding, I confess that I could sometimes go for longer than a year without seeing his face. Now in my post-wedding enlightenment somewhat exacerbated by the knowledge we are not getting any younger, I am determined to change my ways. I will no longer think it acceptable to go for greater than six months without seeing either of my parents. Looks like I will be making more trips to Adelaide and Melbourne!
I am refusing to let this back pain rule my life. When I originally injured it ten years ago, the pain overwhelmed me and I was terrified that I would never get back to my previous level of activity. This time round I am better prepared for the ride and thankfully my pain has been easier to control. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago and it was at a point that I was still maxed out on my pain killers and mostly housebound. I was determined not to be beaten by this fact and agreed to join them for a lunch outing to celebrate.
To avoid having me seated in a car for too long, the Boy chose a local venue called Hopscotch Bar which is a new addition on Angelo Street in South Perth. This beautifully decked out bar is located in an old supermarket that remained vacant for some time after a storm blew its roof off last winter. I was glad to see they opted for a more modern and social way of dining with a small menu of share plates.
A few years ago researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people inherit their work ethic, or if it’s the case a lack of one, from their fathers not their mothers. This means that those who grow up with a hard-working, career focused dad will likely grow up to have similar attitudes. I am very grateful to have received Dad’s career orientated genes and it makes me so happy to see him proud of my achievements. There is however a slight downside to being so dedicated to our respective jobs, simply never having enough time in the day or in fact days in the week. It is far too easy to let the work-life balance slip off kilter and both Dad and I suffer from this.
Recovery from a disc injury can be a roller-coaster ride of good days and bad days. After an optimistic fortnight of steady improvement, I was faced with a horrid day of crippling pain and depression. I forced myself through the morning’s torture in the hope that it would ease as the day progressed but the short drive to work was enough to push me over the edge. I am normally an energetic and bubbly person and I hate that I’m reduced to a crumpled heap on the floor of our staff room. To add to the pain, I feel racked with the guilt of leaving my colleagues with all my work for the afternoon. I battled through a couple of consults before pathetically limping back to my car for the dreaded drive home. Pain has a way of warping your perspective on life and I can sense how short tempered and grumpy I am but with every moment hurting I cannot stop myself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After graduating from high school I left Adelaide and moved across to Perth to study for my dream career in Vet Science. Being only seventeen at the time, my worldly possessions consisted of a suitcase of clothes, some hand-me-down pots and pans, a hand written note book with all of Mum’s family recipes and my stereo tape deck. I couldn’t imagine why I would need or want anything more; music and food were enough to keep me happy.
It was fortunate that I was so easily satisfied because for the next six years I got to experience what it is like to live below the poverty line on Austudy, Australia’s government funded student income. It is easy to learn to go without when you barely have enough income to eat and pay your rent, and it forces you to become much more resourceful.
Taste of Perth 2015 proved that this is a city of passionate and dedicated gourmands. Over 15,000 people braved strong winds and horizontal rain to enjoy icon dishes from our city’s best restaurants served up by the Head Chefs themselves.
It was a very wet weekend with only a brief few hours of sunshine during the Friday lunch session which was fortunately the session that I attended! The festival is divided into lunch and dinner sessions which allows you four hours to eat, drink and mingle with friends. Food is purchased using “Crowns” which one Crown equally the value of $1.
I was joined by my fellow blogging friends who, like me, know the importance of having a “Taste of Perth Game Plan”. Prior to attending each of us had read the full menu, decided on our chosen dishes and could visualise the basic map layout in our heads. This is serious business!
“Take me back to Barcelona!” These are words that escape my mouth on more than one occasion. My love affair with Spain first developed back in the 90’s when the Boy and I went backpacking around Europe together for the summer. We were uninhibited by shackles of any debt or responsibility and traveled nearly six months roaming from city to city without any real plan. We stayed in hostels and I successfully survived living out of a backpack with only two pairs of shoes to choose from. I laugh at this fact when I think of how I travel now; with suitcases the weight of bricks complete with multiple pairs of shoes, boots, jackets, dresses, running gear, party outfits, lap tops and camera equipment. My how time can change people!
I recently traveled to Tasmania on a two-week working holiday to help out at a colleague’s cat-only veterinary clinic. The Australia Day long weekend was conveniently embedded in the middle of my trip and so the Boy flew over on the Friday to join me. I was getting paid holiday pay from my work in addition to my locum wage from the cat clinic so I decided to splurge and booked us two nights accommodation at the luxury resort Saffire Freycinet on the east coast of Tasmania.
Saffire Freycinet is a two and a half hour drive north of Hobart through some very picturesque landscapes. The road is windy and undulating making it slow going but is enjoyable to do at a leisurely pace. The Freycinet peninsula is a stunning part of Tasmania with much of this area now turned into a National Park to preserve its natural beauty. The landscape is made of massive eroded mountains of granite known as The Hazards, Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet. These mountains are thought to be over 400 million years old and are home to many native wildlife creatures.
For those of you that missed out on experiencing the glorious feast at Taste of Perth last year, my best advice for you is not to miss out again. Taste Festivals are one of the world’s greatest restaurant festivals and are held in a number of locations all around the world including Paris, London, Sydney and Moscow.
Taste of Perth made its début last year attracting over 16,000 hungry punters over the three days. This year’s Taste festival will be held from the 15th to the 17th of May at Langley Park and it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be even better than last year.
At Taste of Perth, you will be able to create your own designer degustation as many of Perth’s top restaurants will be participating in the event. The 2015 line-up will include some of my favourite venues such as Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume, Bib & Tucker, Nobu, Next Door at No4, Print Hall, El Público and more.
This week is the final week for Eat Drink Perth festivities and for my last official EDP hurrah I attended the “South of France” dinner at Blackbird Restaurant in East Perth. Blackbird is a quaint little place tucked away in the corner nook of Claisebrook Cove facing out onto the water. Their focus is on serving traditional rustic European dishes and they have an interesting wine list with a collection of both local and International wines.
The South of France Dinner includes a three course meal accompanied by a bottle of French wine to share for the very reasonable price of $55 per person. I notified the kitchen staff in advance of my gluten free dietary needs and found then to be more than happy to accommodate.
This is my second year to join the team of official bloggers for the Eat Drink Perth Festival which is an annual event held over five weeks in Perth City and its surrounds. Eat Drink Perth is a festival where there is something for everyone with all sorts of brilliant foodie events held every day ranging from degustations to walking tours, bar wars to cooking classes and there is even a Food Truck Rumble. We are now half way through the festival and reflecting back over the past few weeks I am happy I have managed to cram a lot in despite my non-blog working life being super busy. I have attended the annual Gluten Free Expo, an intimate long table diner by The Creatives, eaten some velvety raw desserts at CNR and watched a friend eat nearly 900 grams of pork knuckle at Brotzeit.