One thing I have learnt from the Boy is that I need to take more time out to relax. Relaxing does not come naturally to me and generally the only way I can do it is if I am forced. Last weekend we drove down to the South West to stay at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a five-star beach front resort only minutes’ drive from Dunsborough and Yallingup.
The reason for our single night stay at Bunker Bay was to sample the resorts’s launch of their new High Tea. High Tea is available at Pullman Bunker Bay resort every day of the week until the 20th of December, and Executive Chef Grant Murray is more than happy to accommodate for guests like myself with dietary requirements.
We sat out on the sunny deck overlooking the wonderful ocean view where we could see glimpses of majestic whales out in the bay. Regrettably I didn’t come prepared with a zoom lens to capture their beauty.
Being able to enjoy gluten, the Boy’s high tea was plated separately to mine to avoid cross contamination and as our waitress brought over our tiers of food we both let out a sigh of pleasure. Each plate was an array of vibrant spring colour and neither of us could wait to tuck in!
Chef Murray enthusiastically spoke to us about his focus on utilising fresh, seasonal produce and wherever possible he will obtain his ingredients locally. All the pastries and baked items are made in their own kitchen, with our muffins and scones coming just out of the oven that morning.
My gluten free savoury course included a cucumber, tarragon and chicken sandwich made with compressed cucumber to give more flavour. The tomato salad contained tomatoes that were grown especially for the restaurant on a property only a few kilometres away. Nothing beats the taste of home-grown tomatoes.
There was no sensation of feeling like I was missing out on a gluten free diet, with my second tier of baked goods tasting just as good the Boy’s looked. My scone didn’t crumble apart like many gluten free versions and my muffin was still warm.
My final top tier of high tea was the prettiest of all, decorated in fresh edible flowers and plump blueberries. My mini tartlets were filled with juicy fresh Western Australian mango. The little meringues had all the layers of textures that a quality meringue must have; a powder poof crunchy shell with a sumptuous gooey centre. Perfection.
The Boy’s standard high tea looked very similar to mine, except that of course it contained gluten. This is the second time he has joined me for high tea and whilst I doubt he will start swilling hot tea any time soon, I can be sure he will happily join me on my next one.
The Boy’s dessert course was just a pretty as my gluten free version, and included a selection of macarons, profiteroles and chocolate mousse cake.
For our accommodation we stayed in a garden view studio villa. Our room was elegantly appointed with a comfortable, king sized bed and a fully equipped kitchenette. Not that we ever needed it to cook for ourselves!
The bathroom was spacious and modern, complete with fluffy bathrobes and slippers along with luxury amenities for those who forgot their toiletries.
Being such a brief stay, we decided to dine at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Other Side of the Moon for our evening meal. Our bubbly natured waitress was very knowledgeable with respect to what was gluten free and what could be adapted on the menu.
We started off our evening with some natural oysters from Coffin Bay served with shallot vinegar.
For our entrée, we opted to share the local South West tasting plate for two. For those with less agreeable dining companions, this tasting plate was also available as a single serve for a lower cost. In the centre of the plate was a gluten free adapted serve of Geographe Bay squid fried with a spicy Asian herb salad and nahm jim dressing. We were advised to start in the middle of the plate and work our way out.
The second tasting was a Swiss brown mushroom filled with confit Baldivis rabbit on bacon and Jerusalem artichoke purée.
We ended the tasting experience with some thin slices of Margaret River venison carpaccio and local pickled onions. Of course I left the onions for the Boy to gobble as I’m not good with the added fructose. A gluten free crouton with olive tapenade accompanied the small serve of venison.
The Boy ordered the duo of beef for his main course. A lightly pan-seared Harvey beef tenderloin accompanied a pot of beef cheek daube. A scoop of truffle mash and cute little heirloom carrots added in some vegetable goodness and was drizzled in a Capel Vale Cabernet Sauvignon jus.
We also ordered a side of fries which our waitress told us would be cooked in clean oil to avoid any gluten contamination. The Boy suggested that perhaps an order of fries on top of all the rest of the food we had eaten so far may be considered somewhat excessive. I was pleased to see our waitress was on the same page as me as she agreed that not only is there a second stomach for desserts, that there is in fact a specific “potato stomach” to fit in potatoes in all forms: be that fries, chips, wedges, whatever, wherever 😉
For my main choice, I ordered the daily special of roasted duck breast. It was served on a bed of quinoa, parsnip purée, and locally grown golden beets. The duck was delicately tender and soft, literally melting in my mouth without a hint of dryness.
Whilst I had big ambitions of pushing the boat out for the evening and having both dessert and cheese, when it came to the crunch I sadly realised I only had room for one or the other. It was a hard choice as there were a decent selection of local and imported cheese on offer. I turned to the Boy for guidance. He had already spotted the Simmo’s ice cream menu with no less than ten flavours to choose from. It was decided. We would have dessert.
The daily dessert special was light, refreshing and perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth. A lemon-scented toasted marshmallow cloud with fresh mango and lychee gel on lime granita had an interesting tango of sweet and citrus flavours. I reluctantly let the Boy taste a mouthful as he even more reluctantly let me sample his ice creams. He is generally very easy going with letting me eat off his plate, except when it is ice cream. He becomes very territorial of every mouthful!
The following morning we opted for a light room service breakfast before taking a stroll around the beautiful resort. There is a 24 hour room service menu offering lots of gluten free options including pizzas and other main meals for late night snacking. The beach is only a short walk from the villas, and is such a beautiful spot with the characteristic stunning white sands and clear blue water that the region is well known for.
After a enjoyable walk along the beach, the Boy and I headed to the resort spa; Vie where we had booked a massage in the couples room along with a Pevonia signature facial. It has taken me some time to convert the Boy to enjoy spa treatments but each time he comes along he warms further to the concept.
Sadly, our whirlwind weekend was coming to an end and prior to departing we took some time to relax in the bistro area of the resort where they have a tapas menu serving small plates that highlight on the local produce that is seasonally available. Again there were both gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Our vegetarian dish of roasted cauliflower was exceedingly addictive with charred grilled piquillo peppers, toasted macadamia and pomegranate. It came with creamy tahini for a tangy hit of extra flavour. I loved the presentation with lots of splashes of colour and fun.
Our second dish of Fremantle octopus was adapted to be gluten free by the omission of chorizo. It was paired with smoked yoghurt, local olives, edamame and grilled tomato. I have a tendency to be quite fussy with my octopus having be very spoilt in my time in Spain. It is far too common that it is not prepared well and the meat ends up being as chewy as an old sock. This octopus did not disappoint my critical opinions, each piece was deliciously tender and did not give my jaw a work out to chew. It was a perfect way to end our very short stay.
For much of the drive home to Perth, the Boy and I talked about making plans for when we could next return to stay at Bunker Bay. It is rare that we simultaneously relax together and despite such a short stay, this trip was a success. The resort has enough options to be able to stay there and not leave, but is located so close to the wineries and tourist sights for the Margaret River region such that if you don’t want to stay put you don’t have to. Suffice to say we have already booked our next trip 😉
High Tea at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is available at the resort’s bistro until 20 December 2015.
Cost is $37 per person with a Dilmah specialty tea, barista-made coffee or hot chocolate, or $45 per person to add a glass of sparkling wine. Kid’s Menu available for children up to 12 years. Bookings require 48 hours’ notice with pre-payment at the time of reservation. With advance notice, dietary requirement can be catered for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Pullman Bunker Bay resort and received her night accommodation and high tea for two at no cost. She paid in full for her dinner at Other Side of the Moon, for the tapas at Tapestry and for her Spa treatments at Vie.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 42 Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste WA | (08) 9756 9100 | Website
I love being part of unique dining experiences. I find the excitement of the unknown combined with the knowledge that it is a once off event makes the evening feel so special. Alphabet Soup Dining is a Perth-based pop-up restaurant run by chef Melissa Palinkas who is also the Executive Chef and part owner of Young George in East Fremantle. Melissa started Alphabet Soup because she wanted to offer a quirky degustation style meal where she could let her creativity run free. She holds a dinner event once monthly in locations all around Perth and has popped up in places like Milk’d in Maylands, Cutlery Draw in Manning, Frisk! Small Bar and 399 Bar in Northbridge and most recently at Canton Lounge in the City.
I have wanted to attend an Alphabet Soup dinner for some time so when I saw that chef Melissa was holding a truffle themed dinner this was my immediate cue to book us in. I can never say no to truffle. Before booking I checked that the event could cater for gluten free and was happily assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.
The Alphabet Soup events are based around a six course meal and the menus are published online just a few days before the event. After being seated for the evening, we received a couple of rounds of “snacks” that were not on the menu as a surprise. Our first treat was a reverse crayfish truffle sushi roll using locally caught Mindarie cray. The cray meat was tender and sweet having been cooked sous vide with truffle in the bag to infuse a strong flavour.
Our second surprise snack was a basket of miso lamb ribs, also cooked sous vide in a bag with truffle. The meat slid off the bones easily and the Boy and I sat speechless, both far too busy for words as we sucked and slurped each rib until it was clean.
Our next dish was a little theatrical; sake cured ocean trout with truffle with a yuzu and coconut salad. The portions of ocean trout were suspended on a miniature hanging line with pint-size pegs. Super cute.
The trout was matched with a pomelo mojito, made with Havana 7, pink grapefruit, lime and crème de menthe. It was an interesting experience having a meal matched with not just wines, but also a collection of cocktails.
Who said eating gluten free meant you had to miss out? My truffle chicken karage was made using tapioca flour and tasted just like the real thing. Two crispy morsels were accompanied by some truffled Japanese mustard aioli topped with black sesames. This was finger licking good chicken that left no grease on my hands, my only gripe was that I was left wanting more.
My fried chicken yearning was quickly forgotten upon the arrival of the next dish; broken truffle sticky rice with a 62 degree egg. It is hard not to fall madly in love with the magical combination of slow cooked eggs and truffle, and thankfully there are a number of chefs in Perth that have caught onto this simple decadence.
It is guaranteed that this combination will never fail to make me swoon, those flavours are perfectly married in heaven. Poised with my camera in hand, my predictable squeal of delight emitted when the Boy cut into his yolk was met with his usual eye roll. I may be a little over the top with my love for yolk porn, especially after a few cocktails.
For our next dish, we enjoyed a pork and truffle dumpling served in a richly flavoured dashi broth with fresh shiitake mushrooms. To finish the dish, shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle cascaded on the surface adding a stronger hit of truffiliciousness.
I was to learn that the element of surprise is the norm for the Alphabet Soup dinners. Our next course was yet another secret item that was not found on the menu. I really love surprise dishes! A super tender, baby carrot was cooked in truffle dashi before being grilled and then served with an XO sauce ash.
Our final main course was the seared duck breast, cooked Chinese BBQ style with truffle mushrooms, edamame and of course, fresh truffle.
The duck breast was crispy thin on the outside yet remained tender pink and buttery moist on the inside.
To freshen up our palates ready for dessert, we were given a bite sized spoonful of mandarin and yuzu jelly. It was uplifting and refreshing, combining perfectly with my jazzed up G&T made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon and jasmine tea.
Our dessert brought me back to my childhood when Mum and I would go to the Adelaide Central Markets to do our weekly food shopping. My reward for being the good daughter who would come along and help her mother would always be some sort of treat we shared before going home. Most weeks we would end up walking over to Adelaide’s Chinatown precinct and finding something delicious. These were the days I was oblivious to the fact gluten was killing me, and in my ignorance I would eagerly look forward to the times we would get ourselves a steam pork bun.
For our final course with Alphabet Soup, the Chef made a special batch of gluten free truffle and pear steam buns just for me. The buns were made using potato, corn flour and rice flour giving an authentic doughy, but fluffy texture. We were given truffle honey and Anglaise sauce to drizzle lavishly over our buns. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening out with Alphabet Soup and will be watching out for her next event. There was all the right elements of entertainment, quirkiness and originality that I had hoped for with some extra surprises to boot. Chef Mel effortlessly catered for my dietary needs without making me feel like I missed out on any of the degustation experience. Thanks Melissa!
Alphabet Soup | www.alphabetsoupdining.com
Canton Bar | 532 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 8887 | www.cantonbar.com.au
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.
On my first Leederville Food Safari experience, we started our evening at Ria Malay Kitchen for entrées and it didn’t take long for our group to discover the awesome cocktail list. I ordered a Malay Mule; made with lemongrass infused vodka, fresh lime and homemade ginger beer. It had just the right amount of ginger bite to it and would have been an easy drink to slam back in succession if it wasn’t a school night 😉
All three of the Safari’s restaurants are able to cater for dietary requirements including gluten free and vegetarian options. My gluten free entrée plate included a generous heap of peppered squid and grilled satay chicken skewers.
There was a lot of other starters brought to the table for the other guests which were devoured in no time. We remained blissfully oblivious that we were about to be served an even more extensive amount of food for our mains at the next pit stop.
I climbed into one of the trusty rickshaws with the lovely Laura from Yelp Perth and we snuggled up together to keep warm. Neither of us are ever short of a word to say and having not seen each other for a while we chatted away vibrantly while our driver carefully negotiated the busy traffic to whisk us over to Kitsch Bar.
I had really enjoyed the gingeriness of my Malay Mule cocktail and subsequently was prompted by friends to order Kitsch Bar’s chilli ginger beer. I was given the option for no chilli but of course I politely declined and asked for it to be hot!
As the food started to come out to our tables, I was extremely excited to hear that everything they were serving was gluten free! This was definitely a night of NOT missing out! For our first dish we enjoyed was the very naughty, but scarily addictive tamarind salted chicken skins. Super crispy with no oily aftertaste, these skins are a treat that you will have to forget about dieting and just tuck in.
The chicken skins were gone in a quick flash and we were warned to pace ourselves by veteran Safari guests as there was a fair amount of food on its way. Kitsch’s menu is based on a modern twist of many Asian street food favourites. The barbeque Szechuan chicken was first on the list, the tender chicken was tossed through with charred corn salsa and coriander.
My favourite dish of the evening had to be the sticky black vinegar braised lamb neck. The meat tore off the bone effortlessly and literally melted in my mouth it was so moist and soft. It was served with a mild eggplant sambal and green beans.
One of the vegetarian dishes on offer was the sriracha and garlic roasted cauliflower. I loved the addition of thick chunks of paneer, a fresh white Indian cheese.
Our final main dish of crispy skinned pork belly came at a point in the night where my sides were nearly splitting at the seams. This food safari is a great night out for people with a healthy appetite! The pork belly was prepared with a sticky sweet chilli caramel sauce and served with a fresh apple salad. Although we all proclaimed we would struggle to fit anymore, we each managed to nibble our way through a slice of the pork before piling back into our rickshaws to head back down to Foam Coffee Bar for dessert.
Laura and I were the first to arrive at Foam and stood starry-eyed in front of the cake cabinet for some time before we could make our decisions. There were numerous gluten free, dairy free and raw options to choose from in addition to some more “normal” desserts for those without any dietary requirements.
We opted to both share our choices and ordered a wedge of pistachio, berry and almond cake along with some raw peppermint slice. We both agreed that anything peppermint flavoured wouldn’t actually fill us up as it is very refreshing and light. Kind of along the same lines as eating peppermint thins at the end of meal. I could easily eat a whole packet of those little chocolates.
The Leederville Food Safari is a fun night out and gives a brilliant alternative to the usual dining experience. The food is served in abundance and I recommend to arrive hungry so you can eat everything on offer. This summer’s rickshaw driven food safari season begins today on the 1st of September and will run through until the end of summer.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Leederville Food Safari. Thanks to Meg Coffey from Coffey & Tea for organising such a fun night out.
Leederville Food Safari
Phone (08) 9242 1229 | Cost $95 per person excluding drinks | Book online at leedervillefoodsafari.com.au
Ria Malay Kitchen
106 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9328 2998 | riamalaykitchen.com.au
229 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9242 1229 | kitschbar.com.au
Foam Coffee Bar
130 Oxford Street, Leederville, WA 6007 | (08) 9444 7475 | www.foamcoffeebar.com.au
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.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
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 always a woman of my word and following with this pledge the Boy and I whizzed over for a whirlwind weekender in Melbourne to celebrate my father’s birthday. The first night we celebrated at home with a party that ran well into the wee hours of the night. Early next day we were enthusiastically prompted by Dad to piled into the car to visit their new venture; a beautiful character property in the Yarra Valley. The Boy and I were seriously hungover and sleep deprived, and we were followed by a convoy of guests in similar states from the night before.
To introduce us to the Healesville area, lunch was booked at Coombe Farm Winery’s Melba Estate. The restaurant is located in a restored building that was once the home of Dame Nellie Melba, one of our most famous Australian opera singers from the early 1900s. The building is surrounded by formal gardens that were landscaped over 100 years ago. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side with blustering wind and rain preventing us from exploring the gardens so we all bundled quickly into the restaurant where we were shown to our private dining area.
Being a large group booking we were provided a set menu for three courses at $59 per head with three choices for each course. There was a gluten free option for each course although some dishes required a little adaptation. It took quite some time for our order to be taken which was extended by further delays because our drink order was forgotten and subsequently reordered.
For entrée I chose the roasted beetroot salad with Yarra Valley white savourine, candied walnuts and mixed leaves. Savourine is a locally made semi matured goats cheese and it paired well with the sweeter flavours from the beetroot and candied nuts. I was also able to get some toasted gluten free bread on request which helped greatly to soak up the previous night’s residual champagne in my stomach.
Other options included the Boy’s choice of crab filled crisp zucchini flowers with lemon yoghurt. Upon dissecting out his zucchini flowers there was very little crab inside which left him disappointed. Other guests at our table ordered the duck liver pâté with Merlot poached figs and Melba toast. The pâté was smooth and velvety and could be served with gluten free toast on request.
Conversation flowed easily across the table as we were among family and close friends so it took us a while to realise that once again our table had been forgotten. Our wine glasses were bone dry, empty plates remained on our tables and our mains were nowhere to be seen. Frustrated with the lack of service, Dad got up from the table and marched off to find a waitress.
Shortly after that, our main meals arrived along with another couple of bottles of wine. It was so cold outside that nearly everyone had opted for the winter warming dish of dry aged Porterhouse steak. It was served with smooth kohlrabi rémoulade, hand cut chips and anchovy butter. I was sold on the mere mention of anchovy butter as for me it is nearly up there with truffle butter. Now hold onto your horses, I did say nearly!
Our mains were accompanied by two side dishes: triple cooked Sebago potatoes chunks with rosemary and garlic confit, and garden leaves with radish, goats cheese and a verjuice dressing. The potatoes were bland in comparison to my hand cut chips and needed liberal addition of more seasoning.
For our last course there was a choice of two desserts or a cheese platter. None of the dessert options were gluten free however the chef was happy to adapt the Peach Melba to be suitable.
Poached peaches, scoops of vanilla ice cream and peach sorbet were served with lashings of syrupy raspberry sauce. Tumbled amongst the peaches were freeze dried raspberries and raspberry jelly and the dish was topped with thin, chewy straps of dehydrated peach and raspberry. It was truly the best dish of the day. The words “happy birthday” written on my dad’s plate was a lovely personalised touch.
Being one of my family’s new local eating options, we couldn’t hide our disappointment in the level of inattentive service we received. While we were mostly happy with our food and I’m sure we will return, it just might take a while for us to work our way through the rest of the local venues first.
Coombe the Melba Estate
675 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream VIC 3770 | (03) 9739 0173 | www.coombeyarravalley.com.au
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.
Consequently it can be hard to pin down Dad and Tess for a weekend, especially as they live in Melbourne, but when we offered for their Christmas gift the lure of a full weekend eating truffles it was too good for them to refuse. We wanted to show them the full Truffle Kerfuffle experience so although it was a lot of eating I booked tickets for the Hunt and Harvest Dinner on the Friday, the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch on the Saturday and finally ending with Sophie Zalokar’s Truffle dinner at Foragers on the Saturday night. We booked our accommodation at one of Sophie’s beautiful chalets on the Foragers property in Pemberton.
Truffle Kerfuffle, or TK as it is known affectionately by the locals, kicked off in style on the Friday night with the Gala Opening Hunt and Harvest dinner. I loved observing the wide range in interpretation of the evening’s dress code; with some guests donning full satin evening gowns while others were dressed for comfort in jeans and sneakers. Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail to sip as we found our way to our pre-allocated tables.
For last year’s TK, I planned ahead and had organised to be seated near decent lighting for the dinner event so that my photography didn’t suffer. This year I totally forgot and my heart sunk a little when I glanced over and saw that our arranged seats were situated in one of the darkest parts of the marquee.
The Hunt and Harvest Dinner consisted of five courses matched with local wines with each course prepared by one of the weekend’s celebrity chefs. All the chefs remained very focused on utilising the local produce in the Southern Forest region, not just black truffles. As we eagerly waited for our first course, our waitress came over to the table with a big grin on her face. “The chef just whipped up a surprise dish for you all; it’s a truffle croquette!” Everyone reached in excitedly to sample the crispy delights, but alas I missed out because of course they weren’t gluten free. The Boy happily snuffled up my croquette for me.
The first official course was made by Matthew Evans from the TV series Gourmet Farmer. Matthew is a chef that shares TK’s food philosophy of eating local and seasonal. He prepared a smooth textured brandade using locally caught Redfin perch, potatoes and of course plenty of Manjimup truffle.
The second dish was by far the best of the night and yet sadly one that I failed to capture on camera. Pata Negra’s David Coomer is somewhat of a truffle expert and was one of the first Perth chefs to twig onto the bright idea of growing his own truffles. David’s marron dish was close to orgasmic and for that moment all four of us stopped talking mid-conversation to focus attentively on sucking and slurping every single last morsel of flavour from our marron shells. The marron flesh was cooked to the millisecond of perfection and was literally drowning in a decadent brown butter truffle vinaigrette topped with grated truffle. What astounded me the most with this dish was that David somehow managed to ooze aromatic truffiliciousness into every mouthful; even the enclosed meat in the marron’s legs and claws tasted like truffle. It was heaven.
As the four of us glowed in the aftermath of marron ecstasy, Dad voiced his sympathy for the chef whose dish followed next as he imagined even a wonderful dish would be bland in comparison to that marron. Scott Bridger from Bib & Tucker and May Street Larder created his dish using local buckwheat and seasonal Jerusalem artichokes, topped with milk curd, fresh apple, sprouted buckwheat, wood sorrel and truffle.
I am guessing that he included some other gluten flours to be able to make the dough so fluffy, and thus my gluten free adapted version was made using a thin buckwheat crêpe. After indulging on copious rich truffle butter from the marron, I actually welcomed the lighter flavours.
Chef Kenny McHardy recently moved up to Perth from Albany and soon will be opening his new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen in Fremantle. He opted for a more hearty styled dish of a pork pithivier which is sort of a French equivalent of a meat pie but with a fluffy puff pastry. It was served with heirloom pumpkin and some local Tangletoe organic cider made at Mountford Wines in Pemberton.
Fluffy textures in gluten free pastry is a hard creation to prepare and Chef Kenny made the wise decision to not to ruin the dish with a lackluster gluten free pastry alternative. Instead, I received two buttery soft pork rillettes for my gluten free alternative. As many of my readers may recall, pork is not generally my first protein choice. But offer me pork lavished with luscious truffle and I can easily be swayed!
To finish off the evening, we enjoyed dessert made by Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. Sophie bravely chose to made her dish truffle-less and used another culinary delicacy locally grown in the Southern Forests region; native finger limes. She prepared a smooth lemon souffle and topped it with adorable little pearls of Pemberton finger lime. I love how this fruit has been marketed as “citrus caviar”, it is such an appealing concept.
We commenced our next morning at the Truffle & Wine Co to go on a truffle hunt. My stepmum Tess is a huge animal lover like I am, with a particular weakness for Labradors. We got to meet the truffle dog Scrappy, a black Lab whose gentle nature and large brown eyes won everyone’s hearts especially Tess’s.
Not only is Scrappy trained to detect where truffles are growing under the ground, but she can also determine which truffles are ripe and therefore ready for harvest while leaving the immature truffles to continue to grow.
Using specific head gestures Scrappy was able to indicate to her trainer if there was more than one truffle in a single location and if they were growing together in a cluster or spaced a distance apart. Such a clever dog!
After a few cuddles with Scrappy, we returned to Fonty’s pool just in time for the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch. It was going to be a big day of non-stop eating so I had skipped breakfast in preparation and was ready with a very healthy appetite.
In a similar fashion to the dinner, our lunch was focused around showcasing some of the Southern Forest’s wonderful local produce with the black truffle taking centre stage. Each course was matched with local regional wines.
Our entree was prepared by Aaron Carr, the Executive Chef at Vasse Felix in Margaret River who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year in the WA Good Food Guide. Using the locally farmed Blue Ridge marron, he paired it with sweet pear, cauliflower and truffle.
For the main course Chef Luke Burgess slow cooked some finger licking beef short ribs. The short ribs were served shared style in the centre table with each guest receiving their own plate of smoked quince and kohl rabi salad to pair with the tender beef.
The meal was rounded off nicely with dessert by Tom Randolph from No. 4 Blake Street. Savoury and sweet flavours were married with a truffle and Jerusalem artichoke custard topped with chocolate consommé and shards of salted chocolate.
After Saturday’s lunch we opted to head home from TK early as I was still suffering from my stupid back injury and needed some time out with my feet up to ease the pain. We had the Foragers Truffle Kerfuffle Seasonal Dinner that evening and I wanted to be able to last the distance. Foragers Field Kitchen holds sell-out seasonal dinners most Saturday nights which consist of a set menu served in a shared style. They have a BYO license.
Sophie Zalokar is a passionate advocate for the Southern Forest region and sources quality local produce to use in her kitchen as much as possible. Her cooking style is best described as authentic country cooking and nearly everything she prepares is made from scratch. For our first course, we started with a white bean and parmesan soup topped with truffle cream and fresh chervil. It was a crisp, cold night out and this shot of warmth was just what I needed.
For our second course we enjoyed some wood-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sprout hearts. I haven’t tried them wood roasted before, it seems to be more popular to served them pureed rather than whole. They have a distinct but subtle sweetness to them which I have since learnt is due to the fructose content, something to note if you have fructose malabsoprtion. Toasted buckwheat and hazelnuts added a wonderful textural element to the dish. Some labna, or fresh yoghurt cheese, was made from Bannister Downs milk and of course everything was lavished with plenty of fresh truffle.
Whilst I’m certainly not a chef, it seems to me that rabbit can be a very temperamental meat to prepare. I often find it to be dry and tough unless it is served in some sort of slow cooked stew. Forager’s cider braised rabbit was none of those things and was so delicately tender and moist. It was served with celeriac cream, porcini juice, fresh truffle and Brussels sprout leaves.
I was thankful that our dessert was lovely and light as we had been solidly eating for most of the day. The smooth honey custard sat gently in my overly full belly and the persimmon and pumpkin seed salad was a refreshing way to finish a perfect meal.
We were yet to explore much of the Truffle Kerfuffle Farmers Market so we headed back on the Sunday morning as fresh as daisies to check it out.
There was an abundance of local food and wine to try with a smaller selection of hot food stalls to purchase more substantial meals. What sparked the Boy’s attention the most were the truffle inoculated trees available for sale and although we don’t have a property in Manjimup he showed great interest in getting one. Dad being the always generous man stopped in at the stall and bought one for his only son-in-law.
After the previous day’s feasting we were happy for a light lunch and while Dad and Tess wandered the Market tasting wines the Boy and I sat on the grass and ate some heartwarming market food. We had filled our bags with purchases of local produce to bring home including fresh truffles, local potatoes and an enormous spaghetti squash.
That evening back in our chalet, we had the most simple but exquisite meal of mashed potato with truffle butter and fresh truffle. It was as heavenly as all the other dishes we devoured over the three days, except of course for David Coomer’s marron. Now THAT was a one in a lifetime moment. It is always sad moment when TK is over, but the four of us are already counting down the days until next year’s truffle feasting. It looks like it might be an annual event for Dad and Tess too now!
Truffle Kerfuffle is held on the last weekend of June every year at Fonty’s Pool in Manjimup. Refer to their website www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au for more details
Disclaimer: Chompchomp purchased the tickets to the Hunt and Harvest dinner, Food Bowl lunch, Truffle Hunts and Winter Seasonal Dinner at Foragers at her own expense. She was grateful to receive a media pack with free passes, wine glasses and transportation to events for all her family from Offshoot Creative.
Pata Negra | 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands WA 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au
Bib & Tucker |18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
May Street Larder | Shop 23, 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle WA 6158 | www.maystreetlarder.com.au
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen | Shop 6/7,128-134 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160 | Facebook
Sophie Budd, Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Vasse Felix | Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Foragers | Lot 1 Roberts Road, Pemberton WAZ 6260 | (08) 9776 1580 | www.foragers.com.au
Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8177 | www.colonialbrewingco.com.au
Kent Street Deli | Unit 3/1 Kent Road, Rockingham WA 6168 | (08) 9528 5335 | www.kentstreetdeli.com.au
Lady Marmalade | Donnybrook, WA | 0417 415 073 | Facebook
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.
Upon arriving home I drugged and heat-packed the hell out of that wretched spine of mine before laying back in bed with a glass wine in hand. Before long I was smothered in cats and started to appreciate that tommorow would be a brand new day. With new-found gratitude I reminded myself to be thankful I still have many wonderful things in my life; I have my sanity, my internal health, a loving husband and two of the most handsome cats in the world.
One of my treasured winter creature comforts in Perth is our locally grown fresh black truffles. I go absolutely bonkers for these little black fungi and our winter is filled with back to back truffle dinner events. This season has already kicked off and yet I’m in no good shape to sit down for a lazy degustation. So, in an act of kindness the Boy suggested that instead of going to the truffle, get the truffle brought to me. My first creation of the season is this luscious creamy truffle cauliflower soup. This is a vegan cauliflower soup that is also gluten free and dairy free, and rich in flavour and umami deliciousness.
- 1 clove garlic
- 30 grams Nuttelex or preferred dairy free, vegan spread
- 1 tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate (from Thermomix EDC, if you are not using a Thermomix, use 1 stock cube. Ensure it is onion and gluten free)
- 40 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 40 grams raw blanched almonds, soaked for 1-2 hours and drained
- 250 grams cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 200 grams potato, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon savoury yeast
- 600 grams filtered water, room temperature
- 10-20 grams of fresh black truffle, depending on preference
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 grams cauliflower florets, broken into small florets
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
- 10 grams fresh black truffle
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Toss 100 grams of small cauliflower florets in olive oil season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20-25 mins until browned. Reserve for garnishing the soup
- Place garlic clove in the mixing bowl and chop for 5 sec | Speed 5 MC. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Add 30 grams Nuttelex and saute for 2 mins | 100C | Speed 1.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast, water and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20 min | 100C | Speed 1. Put the simmer basket on top instead of the MC
- Blend for 1 minute | Speed 9, gradually increasing from Speed 1-9 until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Mix for 20 seconds | Speed 3.
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
- Finely chop garlic clove. Saute with 30 grams Nuttelex in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast and water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 min or until vegetables are soft . Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend using a stick blender until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Stir to mix through
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
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!
The lack of indication for the gluten free dishes on the menu was a slight source of frustration for me. Some stalls can develop reasonable sized queues and no one wants to wait in line to find out they cannot order anything. Not wanting my frustration to turn into disappointment, I created a Plan B in the case that my desired dishes were glutenised. Yes that is a word.
After a few snacks in the corporate lounge, we kicked off our designer degustation at Nobu with their icon dish of 9+ Wagyu Carpaccio served with a slightly gooey quail egg and a kick of aji amarillo aioli. My dish was gluten free adapted with the omission of soy-salt. Whilst some may baulk at the price to portion ratio of this dish, I assure you that it would take just one mouthful of that buttery meat to liquefy on your tongue to make you understand what real Wagyu is.
Nobu’s spicy aji amarillo aioli lingered on our palates making the perfect introduction to head to El Público’s stall for some Mexican. I had already had the pleasure of tasting their dishes at the sneak preview a few weeks back so I looking forward to more.
I loved the sweet freshness of the street corn charred and braised served with crema, chili, lime & fresh cheese.
Later that night on the evening session, the Boy was desperate to try El Público’s icon dish called the “Flavours of Mexico” as he hasn’t had the chance to chow down bugs since we last visited Thailand. The fried crickets were served with two shots of throat clearing mezcal.
Bib & Tucker had a few gluten free options on offer. The colourful rosella flower cured kingfish with beetroot, finger limes and beach herbs injected much needed vibrancy to the afternoon as the sun began to slink behind the rain clouds.
Their icon dish was Flinders Island wallaby shank served with textured puffed wild rice and pickled grape agrodolce. Head Chef Scott Bridger demonstrated how to prepare this dish in the Electrolux Taste Theatre where the aromas of his cooking only served to increase our appetites even more.
Moving on from Bib & Tucker, I couldn’t stop myself nabbing a bite sized serve of Modo Mio’s vitello tonnato as it is one of my favourite dishes from their restaurant. The tender, thinly sliced veal was drizzled generously with tuna and caper mayo, topped with a quail egg and finished with a splash of truffle oil. However it really was not much more than a mouthful.
As we all looked at our watches, we realised we were running out of time! I was feeling rather content and happily followed the consensus of the group to head to Asado.
I quickly deduced that Asado is the place to be if you are a meat lover. I stood in a trance for more than a few minutes watching the chefs meticulously cook thick chunks of sizzling marbled meat on the BBQ grill.
Eventually I broke away my gaze, presumably because my eyes were tearing from all the smoke and decided I had eaten enough to satisfy my savoury tastebuds. I was ready for a sugar hit.
I was in luck as Asado was one of the few stalls offering a dessert option. Their burnt banana dish was not gluten free as it came with a butter biscuit base. I was grateful that the chefs were happy to make me a special adapted versio.
The banana was caramelised with a satisfying crunchy layer but I have to say it was the dulce de leche that won me over. I know salted caramel is starting to be a bit old hat, but I still love it!
With the day nearly over and my stomach nearly overflowing into my oesophagus, I accepted that if I bought any more food it would need to come home in a doggy bag. Of course that wasn’t a problem, and with a surprisingly quick step for someone so full I managed to whisk over to Bistro Guillaume.
Last year Bistro Guillaume’s massive “macaron burger”, or macaroon as it was inaccurately called, was enough to out-macaron even me! This year it was replaced with a more digestable boxed “Duo” of salted caramel and strawberry macarons although they were still quite a decent size. Sugar high here we come!
As we were leaving Taste of Perth, we walked past the Honeycake stall and I noticed a little “gluten free available” sign on their table. I have attempted to try tasting the Honeycake for months and months after my dear friend Michelle from Foodie Cravings told me there is a gluten free option. Sadly every time I try to buy one they have sold out….but not this time! Oh my, I can now understand what Michelle was on about because it really is worth the hype!
Taste of Perth runs every year in May and brings out talent from our top restaurants all in one location. There are also many other wine and food producer stalls to visit, entertainment and VIP lounges for those wanting something a bit more special. Whilst it isn’t the cheapest food festival on the circuit it is one that I always thoroughly enjoy.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest at Taste of Perth and Electrolux. Some of her dishes were provided free of charge and some she purchased herself.
Nobu | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.noburestaurants.com/perth
El Público | 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au
Bib & Tucker | 18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
Modo Mio | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/modo-mio/about
Asado | 34 Saint Quentin Avenue, Claremont WA 6010 | (08) 6424 9877 | asado.com.au
Bistro Guillaume | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | (08) 9362 7551 | www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au
The Honeycake | Shop 40, Fremantle Markets, Henderson Street, Fremantle WA 6959 | www.thehoneycake.com.au
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.
The climate is some of the mildest in Tasmania with temperatures often much warmer than the rest of the island. We left the torrential rain, wind and cold temperatures behind us in Hobart to enjoy some much needed sunshine and clear skies.
Saffire offer all-inclusive rates at their ultra-private location where we found our every whim catered for. We originally booked a Luxury Suite but were upgraded on arrival to a Signature Suite which contained all the features of the Luxury Suites but with the addition of a larger living space, a relaxing deck lounge and a bathroom overlooking Great Oyster Bay.
It is a wise plan to arrive at Saffire with an empty stomach as all the meals are included; expect a three course breakfast and lunch followed by a seven course degustation for dinner every day. Yes, you heard me, a dego every day. It was hard going. 😉
Lunch and breakfast is served in Palate restaurant which offers stunning views of the Hazards. It was such a treat to head there early for dinner and watch the sun slowly set over the mountains.
The menu for each evening’s degustation is changed daily with the chef focusing strongly on using local and seasonal produce.
A bottomless minibar and alcoholic beverages from a selected list also came at no extra charge. I swear we both gained a number of kilograms in our three day stay. My dietary requirements were very well attended to right down to the lovely touch of gluten free afternoon tea being delivered to our room each day.
The staff form a very well-polished team as the number of guests at the resort is quite small allowing for very individualised and personal treatment to everyone. It is easy to see they all really loved their jobs and there wasn’t a single staff member who didn’t gush over their love for the region.
There are a number of activities to do at the resort with many of them inclusive at no extra charge; such as archery, escorted hikes, oyster farm tours and more. There are also a number of signature experiences, however these came at an additional cost.
One evening we chose to go on the signature Sunset Cruise on one of Saffire’s own boats. Our captain negotiated us through a few rough seas to find us a quiet cove where he cracked out the Tasmanian sparkling wine to share around along with oysters and smoked salmon. He also had a pre-packed separate collection of gluten free snacks for me to enjoy.
Our favourite activity was the oyster farm tour. The Boy and I donned some funky waders and walked out into the water to see up close how oysters are grown.
Our guide showed us expertly how to shuck an oyster and then proceeded to shuck a bunch of them plucked straight from the sea. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
For those wanting to burn off some of your increased calorie intake, there are numerous hikes to do either escorted or alone through the mountains.
Saffire also have an open-range Tasmanian Devil enclosure where we got to see the resident group of devils feed and interact with other.
These devils originally formed part of a breeding colony and have since retired to live out their days in the luxury of Saffire’s massive natural enclosure.
It was a sad moment checking out of our room at Saffire as this is a place that I never wanted to leave. Every single moment felt like total luxury although I dare say we ate way too much food!
Our Saffire package included daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, a very well stocked complimentary mini bar and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Our room had free Wi-Fi internet access and we were given a credit of $150 for the Spa. Our luxury suite cost $1800 per night, and we were upgraded to a Signature suite $2100 at no cost.
Saffire Freycinet | 2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Tasmania 7215 | www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
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.
To give an insight into what to expect this year at Taste, I was invited to attend “Taste on Tour”; a fun-filled roving dinner where I joined a small group of bloggers to visit three of the participating restaurants and sample some dishes on the Taste of Perth ’15 menu.
Our first venue for the evening was El Público in Highgate. El Público will have four dishes on offer at Taste, and I am happy to say all of them will be gluten free!
We started off with tasting the pork belly taco served with charred pineapple, salsa picante and chicharon. The taco was topped with shreds of pork crackling giving it a wonderful play on textures with a lot of depth of flavour.
The braised street corn dish will be a filling option for vegetarians and was served with cream, fresh cheese chill and lime.
For those festival goers needing something a bit meaty, El Público will also be serving their uber soft twice cooked lamb ribs with sesame, cucumber & lime.
After it’s sell out popularity last year, El Público will be bringing back their icon dish called “Flavours of Mexico”. This dish consists of a serve of their renowned fried crickets alongside two shots of village mescal.
Our next stop was Lalla Rookh in the CBD and to everyone’s surprise and delight a tram pulls up in front of El Público to transport us to our next destination!! We piled into the tram filled with giggles while our tram driver proceeded to get some pop music cranking loudly. So much fun!
Before long we arrived at Lalla Rookh, my favourite Italian restaurant in Perth. I love how Head Chef Joel Valvasori has a strong focus on using West Australian produce and am grateful that he will always effortlessly cater for me despite my dietary requirements meaning I never feel like I miss out.
Lalla will be serving their braised lamb shank as their icon dish for Taste this year. This dish is available by pre-order from the restaurant and has a level of cult popularity amongst the regulars.
It will be served with organic polenta made in a more traditional way with a texture that is almost like a light bread. Perfect for dunking in all that luscious, sweet lamby sauce.
After nearly exploding with full stomachs, we were greeted by our chirpy tram driver out the front of Lalla Rookh to transport us onwards to our final Taste on Tour location; Next Door @ No4 in North Perth. Despite protests from many of us of being way too full to be able eat anymore, it never ceases to amaze me how food bloggers can continue to push the boat out and keep eating!
No 4 Blake Street’s Head Chef Tom Randolph is passionate about using seasonal and local produce and will source many of his ingredients directly from the small-scale producers themselves.
The two gluten free options on No4’s Taste of Perth menu this year will be their signature No4 risotto and a 45 day dry aged beef. The risotto is a vegetarian option made with cauliflower, cocoa and topped with burnt rice crisps.
The organic grass-fed beef was tender enough to cut with a fork and was served with a fried egg, crispy kale and sprinkling of dukkha.
No4 will also return one of their sell out dishes to the menu this year; their Valrhona Chocolate Garden. This pot of chocolate decadence contains salted caramel, chunks of chewy peanut dacquoise and sandalwood rocks but is sadly not gluten free due to the chocolate soil.
I think the chef may have seen a jealous glint in my eye as I watched everyone’s eyes roll in ecstasy devouring their Gardens. Before long I was presented with a gluten free adapted version, sans soil but topped with shards of salted caramel chocolate instead. Thank you chef!
I will be giving away TWO double passes to Taste of Perth on my Facebook page over the next week valued $72 each.
To enter simply tell me which is your favourite restaurant attending Taste of Perth this year and why they are your favourite. You can write your answer in the comments section below or alternatively head to my Facebook Page.
The winners will be selected by the Boy and will be based on the most interesting and original answers.
Entries close Sunday 10th May 2015. This competition is open to residents of Australia only.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp attended Taste on Tour as a guest of Taste Festivals and 3am Thoughts.
el PÚBLICO | 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au
Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House | Lower Ground, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 7077 | www.lallarookh.com.au
Next Door @ No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels! 😉
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
We booked a Luxury Package for two nights in a waterfront suite. Our package included breakfast and dinner for both nights and some spa treatments to enjoy together.
Our room overlooked the lagoon and the shores of Lake Daylesford and facilitated complete relaxation with a very comfortable king sized bed, sofa and armchairs. There were a pair of sunbeds out on our deck however the weather was scorching hot and no sane person would have basked in that heat.
There was a bottle of chilled complimentary champagne ready for us on arrival. The minibar was stocked with a small number of locally sourced drinks and nibbles, Salus Spa’s own sparkling mineral water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Unlike some of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, the minibar was not included as part of our stay. Considering the price was comparative with other Lodges, it would have been a nice touch if it was.
The bathroom was spacious with a dual shower, double spa bath and heated bathroom floors. There was a modest sized flat screen television, an iPod docking station to play our tunes and free in room Wi-Fi access.
Every evening between 6 pm to 8.30 pm cocktails are served in the Argyle Library along with some complementary canapés. I was hoping that the canapés would keep coming for as long as we ordered drinks however we quickly learnt that you get one round of delicious canapés and then that is it.
I am guessing they expect you to move through into the restaurant at that point. Nobody ever seems to understand that our appetites are not those of normal people!
After enjoying a round of nibbles and a few more rounds of Campari spritzers, we headed out for a walk around the Lake before returning to our suite for dinner. There are two Lakes to walk around each taking less than half an hour on a shaded and pretty path.
Our package included an in-room supper for two on the first evening with two glasses of house wine. We weren’t expecting such a feast to arrive and this seemed to make up for the feeling of wanting more of those canapés earlier on.
Everything was adapted to be gluten free including gluten free bread and crackers. There was creamy pea soup, an antipasto platter, a cheese platter and plate of fresh fruit.
Breakfast is included for both mornings of our stay and consisted of a continental buffet in addition to a choice of a main dish from their a la carte menu.
The buffet had an array of freshly baked pastries, sliced meats and cheeses with a few gluten free and vegetarian options.
For my main dish I ordered the house baked beans with goats cheese, wilted spinach and poached eggs on gluten free toast.
The beans had wonderful depth of flavour but sadly the gluten free toast let the dish down being quite tasteless and crumbly in texture.
We had minimal plans for our weekend, in fact I was hoping to do very little other than relax but as is always the case with us we cannot help but do a little exploring. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates each Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm and contains a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of antique bric-a-brac, locally grown produce, clothing and crafts. We already had suitcase filled with loot from Christmas so I made do with purchasing a refreshing beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Oh, and I bought a book about cats
We also visited Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm. It was a melting 40 degrees Celsius and we lingered only long enough to smell the fragrant flowers, scull a lavender lemonade in the shade and then retreat back to our air-conditioned car.
For our second evening at Lake House, our package included an eight course degustation with matched wines in the restaurant. We started the evening off again in the Library with some canapés before taking a seat by one of the large windows to watch the reflections of the setting sun across the Lake.
Our degustation took us on a journey using local seasonal food some of which is harvested from their own gardens. This is a restaurant that has repeatedly earned two hats and as our dishes started to roll out I began to see why.
Our amuse bouche consisted of a mouthful of veal tartare and mojama which is a salt cured tuna. This was served with some bonito aioli on a nori crisp so light it dissolved on the tongue like a wafer.
Our second course of spanner crab and white fish sashimi had a Nobu-esque twist with the addition of jalapenos and an elegant dollop of green gazpacho. Some tapioca pearls on the side added another element of texture.
The next course was a pasta dish which meant I received something different in replacement. The Boy’s pasta was a bug agnolotti, which are similar to ravioli. It was served with house made kimchi butter emulsion and crisp shallots.
My gluten free alternative was some mixed tempura served with the kimchi. I was so chuffed that they could do the tempura gluten free as this is so commonly off the menu for me. It was crispy and light and the kimchi had a decent kick to it.
The next dish was inspired by Chef Alla’s Russian heritage and we were told that a variation of this dish is always on the menu. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy and features in many Russian dishes.
The eel was sourced from the Victoria based Skipton eel factory. Wrapped in pancetta the smoked eel was paired with some locally grown organic beets and served alongside a toothsome mustard crème fraiche. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
The next dish was some addictive little morsels of tempura quail wrapped in nori.
They were accompanied by dollops of umeboshi puree, coriander puree, wasabi mayonnaise and the cutest coriander flowers.
Our final main dish was locally sourced pasture fed beef; cooked carefully and slowly such that it had the consistency of melting butter. The hearty flavours of the beef had an added surprise of some chilli and togarashi for an interesting kick.
Pre-dessert consisted of a platter named “Playtime”. This consisted of a number of little palate cleansers including a strawberry compote with white chocolate sorbet and strawberry granita, a “plum shot” and blackcurrant marshmallow lollipops.
For our final course, the Boy and I had different dishes as mine had to be adapted to be gluten free. The Boy’s “Summer Ramble” was a garden of gorgeous components and I was gutted there was no more natural light for a stunning photo. His dish had pistachio sponge, almond praline, almond milk pannacotta, honey ice cream, almond tuille chocolate bark berries AND honey comb….all on one plate. It looked heavenly and despite all the different elements it didn’t taste over complicated or flamboyant.
I could have nearly developed a case of food envy if it wasn’t for my rich peanut butter parfait. It was topped with sesame ganache, peanut praline and sesame ice cream. A perfectly balanced blob of lemon curd added a hint of acidity and a black sesame tuille gave it some crunch and texture.
We had such a relaxing stay at Lake House in Daylesford giving the perfect amount of “us” time that we needed together. Having stayed in a number of Luxury Lodges around Australia now, I would have liked to have seen a bit more luxury in our rooms to justify the room price and feel that in these sort of “never want to leave” styled lodges a complementary minibar can encourage you to really enjoy your accommodation more.
We found the Spa to be of a high quality and actually went back for a second massage in the couple’s room. The restaurant is well deserved of its Good Food Guide Hats and is worth a visit even without a stay in the Lodge. Their wine list is enough to impress my father which is saying something and I heart how they focus on local and seasonal produce.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp and the Boy paid in full for a Lake House Luxury Package for $1200/night. This package included two night accommodation in a Waterfront Suite, light supper for the first evening and a degustation with matched wine on the second night, a full breakfast each morning and a massage and facial at Salus Spa.
4 King Street, Daylesford, Victoria 3460 | www.lakehouse.com.au
Some people choose to mix their work life with their personal life and others prefer to keep them totally separate. I imagine that it would be easy to separate the two if you didn’t hold any passion or joy in your working hours. For me, I tend to submerge myself in my career, sometimes to the level of obsession, such that it is impossible to not develop friendships with both my colleagues and my clients. Occasionally I manage to combine both careers in one, connecting all the dots by creating a friendship with a client from the vet hospital that also happens to read my blog. Conversation runs very freely when you can talk to me about the two things I love the most…..food…..and cats!
Of course the logical thing to do when you have succeeded in finding this trifecta of friendship is to spend quality time to eat together. So, after a few false starts due to busy schedules, we managed to tally up a night to head out with my friends-clients-fellow crazy cat ladies to Cocos Restaurant in South Perth. Being a closet crazy cat man the Boy was happy to join us for dinner for a night of cat talk. Surprisingly despite Cocos being something of a Perth icon I had never eaten at there and welcomed the suggestion.
Cocos Restaurant overlooks the Swan River to gaze onto the expanding Perth City skyline. That is, mind you, if you can secure a table riverside. It is a deceptively large restaurant packed full of tables and wasn’t exactly the fine dining location that I had pictured in my mind. Our table was tucked away at the back of the restaurant with naught but a glimpse of the city lights. The menu showcased a lot of local WA produce with marron and Dhufish featuring alongside Cone Bay barramundi. I was informed by our waitress that there are a number of gluten free options.
I started with the duo of salmon; two types of cured salmon plated out generously and served with a citrus, fennel and herb salad. The outer layer of salmon was cured in beetroot and ginger which imparted a sumptuous red hue to the fish and the inner layer was cured with vodka and Pernod. Some of the fish pieces were a little dry on the edges like they had been prolongedly exposed to air however each mouthful still left a clean aftertaste on the palate without any stale fish odour.
The Boy was feeling peckish and ordered the duck risotto for a more substantial entrée. Soft pinkish strips of pan seared duck breast topped a creamy orange and thyme risotto. The citrusy flavours made this a lighter style of risotto perfect for a first course. One of our friends ordered the beef Carpaccio served with baby capers, chilli, truffle oil and manchego crisps and it was the hugest serve of beef Carpaccio I have ever seen. It was not an entrée for the light-hearted and she kindly offered much of her dish to share as she couldn’t finish it!
For main I chose the Geraldton Dhufish. I realise that eating fish for both entrée and main is a little one sided and maybe narrow minded but there are some days that I just really feel like seafood and figure that I need to listen to my body! The Dhufish fillet was ever so slightly overcooked leaving part of the fillet a little dry. It was served with a tossed salad of Swiss chard and roasted beets.
The Boy ordered the beef fillet on a parsnip and onion puree with a red wine jus. His meat was cooked precisely to order rare and sliced effortless like butter.
One of our friends ordered the saffron linguini pasta with sautéed Moreton Bay Bug tails. It had a bit of a kick to it with added chilli.
My gluten free dessert option was the vanilla pannacotta which was served in an hour shaped glass so I couldn’t test the jiggle factor. There were a lot of contrasting textures to add interest to this dish with strawberry jelly, fresh strawberries, crisp meringue and strawberry ice cream. Happy with this option indeed.
Also ordered at the table was the Bombe Alaska which sadly it wasn’t gluten free so I didn’t get to taste it. It consisted of a chunk of sticky date pudding and homemade honey macadamia ice cream encased in swirls of meringue in a puddle of addictive butterscotch sauce. I cannot deny I was a bit jealous!
It was no surprise the Boy ordered himself the selected homemade ice creams and sorbets although he was a bit perturbed by the “hair” on top of his dessert. He loves to proclaim that he is not a fan of Persian fairy floss yet he always seems to eat it when it’s on his plate so I’m guessing it wasn’t too bad!
Disclaimer: Chompchomp has no shame in admitting that she is a crazy cat lady, additionally that she loves hanging out with crazy cat ladies, that she is married to a crazy cat man and, basically, that cats rock her world. Here’s a picture of her dinner companion’s adorable boy Ralph to cement this statement. A very handsome lad indeed.
Coco’s Riverside Bar and Restaurant
85 The South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WAZ 6151 | (08) 9474 3030 | http://www.westvalley.com.au/
Growing up in a small family unit means that when it breaks apart, the blow is a harder one to deal with. Having less people for the impact to disperse energy leaves each individual with a harder knock. This Christmas we travelled back to Melbourne to spend time with my family however the logistics of who sees who and when became even more complicated than ever before. My sister and I non-amicably parted ways in the lead up to my wedding, not my choice, and although time has passed the wounds still remain fresh for us both. To further complicate the issue, my parents are divorced which means we would normally spend Christmas with them each individually, dining with Dad on Christmas Eve and with Mum on Christmas Day.
Being estranged from my sister meant this usual arrangement would not be possible. Consequently, the plan was for the Boy and I to have Mum’s company for Christmas Eve whilst my sister spent time with our father, and then we would swap over for Christmas Day.
We organised to have Mum for the full day so I could maximise our time together, starting with a beautiful lunch booked at Stokehouse City. Being only minutes walk from where we staying it was the perfect location.
We both arrived laden with bulky gifts and beaming Christmas cheer smiles. I have laboured too long over the sadness of our family situation and am actively trying to move forward and embrace what moments I have with a positive mind.
Mum and the Boy started with the seared Harvey Bay scallops for entrée. This was an interesting mix of flavours with cauliflower purée, strawberries, macadamias and crisp pancetta.
I chose the steak tartare served with pickled shimeji mushrooms, horseradish and mascarpone. Plump, super sweet ruby grapes and wafery potato crisps garnished the dish. The beef was freshly diced and had a very clean aftertaste. This was a modern take of a classic done exceptionally well.
For our main course both Mum and I chose the John Dory fillet. I knew there was going to be some hard core feasting over the next few days and figured starting off eating light would be a kind way to ease my gut into it. The fish was tossed with peppery watercress, toasted almonds and local mussels and served on a bed of richly flavoured Romesco sauce.
The Boy ordered the O’Connor’s pasture fed beef tenderloin served perfectly rare to order and topped with a cascade of smashed roasted potatoes and herbs.
Feeling brief pangs of sadness that I wouldn’t be joining Mum for our traditional lunch at Vue de Monde the following day, I decided to push the boat out and managed to coerce her into ordering both cheese and desserts. I know, I know. I said I would stop this habit as I have put on too much weight this year but then isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
For dessert, we ordered the two gluten free options and shared them amongst the three of us. The lemon and raspberry Eton mess was like a garden of deliciousness with tumbles of fresh berries, champagne jelly and buttermilk ice cream. I nearly regretted electing to share as I savoured every mouthful.
Our second choice was “The Bombe”, Stokehouse’s take on a Bombe Alaska. It made a stunning sight although my drunken photography didn’t really do it justice. Sadly the toasted meringue tasted a bit too gluey and not very fresh. The meringue layered over a centre layer of strawberry sorbet and a white chocolate parfait base.
With full bellies and fuelled with champagne we exchanged our gifts before gathering them all up and walking over to the cinema to see a movie of Mum’s choice. It was late when the movie finished but knowing we wouldn’t get to see each other the following day none of us wanted this day to end. To finish the evening we travelled up to the Atrium Bar on level 35 at the Sofitel to enjoy a few nightcaps before finally bidding farewell and turning it in.
The following day was Christmas Day. Back in the day when I spent this with my sister, it would often be a day of extremes and drama; certainly not all bad but definitely not all good. Some people just don’t cope well under pressure and invariably I would end up bring the scapegoat for most of the day’s hiccups and problems.
Although it was sad and out of place to not be with Mum, this new way of doing Christmas Day was such a relaxed and chilled affair that it almost didn’t feel real.
We ate all day as one always does on Christmas; feasting on roasted goose, baked ham and the most addictive duck fat potatoes. But all this was done without a single element of drama.
Our hosts for the day were my Stepmum’s sister and her husband. My Stepmum’s sister is a master in the kitchen as well as also being the author of the blog Cioccolata Bella.
Everything was made from scratch using local seasonal produce where ever possible, much of it just from her backyard veggie patch.
There was even some gluten free mince pies and plum pudding for me to enjoy. In fact, another guest was Coeliac so there weren’t just token gluten free options, everyone was very mindful of avoiding contamination in the kitchen.
Reflecting back in the peace of mid-January, I appreciate that our return home for Christmas wasn’t what I am used to in years gone by yet despite this change I still got to spend quality time with those I love. And that is the most important thing.
7 Alfred Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000 | (03) 9525 5555 | stokehouse.com.au/city
Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held each year in the Margaret River wine region. It has become a yearly favourite for locals and a huge drawcard for people interstate and internationally. Last year the festival clashed with some dates we had booked for a close friend’s birthday celebration in Lombok, so I thought we were only going to be able to make it down for the Friday. My usual plan of attack when attending a food festival is a crazed I-must-eat-all-the-things caper. I hate the thought that I might miss out on something delicious and end up booking back to back events like a lunatic. This approach often comes at a significant cost and thus our budget for these weekends is usually quite substantial.
When it dawned upon me that I only had a single day for Gourmet Escape, I thought I would push the boat out and chose one of the most expensive events: The International Cabernet Tasting at Cape Mentelle with James Halliday as a guest speaker and matched food by highly acclaimed chefs Jacques Reymond and Hadleigh Troy.
I should have known that it is impossible to try and plan your social life six months in advance. As it drew closer to the month of Gourmet Escape our travel plans fell through and subsequently the whole weekend opened up for us. One door closed and another door opened. I preceded to book a flurry of events and are yet to look at the damage it made on my credit card. I even bought tickets to a Fervor degustation for the evening after the Cabernet Celebration! This proved to be a learning lesson that I can no longer do two big food events in one day.
I have never been to an official wine tasting event before and whilst I am very experienced at drinking wine, I am a total amateur when it comes to tasting and describing wines. Cape Mentelle’s International Cabernet tasting is an event that has been running for over thirty years and at each event they select international wines from vintages from a specific year.
There were twenty wines selected for blind tasting from the vintage 2011. Cameron Murphy, the Estate Director at Cape Mentelle advised us that 2011 was a challenging year for many wine growing regions around the world resulting in some top labels not releasing a Cabernet or requesting that their wines were not to be included in the line-up for this event.
The wines were divided into three “brackets” and after tasting each bracket, we would congregate outside under the vines and listen to some top wine critics from around the country analyse and give their opinions. It was a very serious affair and once the tasting got under way the only noise I could hear were clinks of glasses hitting together and the occasional slurp from professional tasters spotted around the room.
We were given note books and pencils to take our own notes and with the ban on talking this gave me an opportunity to actually think about what I was tasting from each glass.
It took a couple of hours to get through the three brackets of wine accompanied by the wine critic’s discussions by which point I was desperate for something to eat. There was some plain bread and pear slices available to cleanse the palate between each bracket which I obviously couldn’t eat. After the tasting were completed, the list of wines were revealed for us to see. It was a proud moment to see that most of the critic’s best wine choices were from local WA wineries. Where the world had a bad vintage, our state seemed to come out with flying colours. Go WA!
Wines in order of tasting:
- Ridge Montebello (Napa Valley, USA)
- Woodlands (Margaret River, Australia)
- Houghton ‘Jack Mann’ (Frankland River, Australia)
- Mount Mary (Yarra Valley, Australia)
- Château Pichon – Longueville Baron, (Paulliac, Bordeaux)
- Domaine A (Tasmania, Australia)
- Sassicaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
- Wendouree (Claire, Australia)
- Spottswoode (Napa Valley, USA)
- Cloudburst (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cape Mentelle (Margaret River, Australia)
- Hentley Farm von Kasper Cabernet (Barossa, Australia)
- Château Palmer (Margaux, Bordeaux)
- Moss Wood (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Château Haut Brion (Graves, Bordeaux)
- Xanadu ‘Stevens Road’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Far Niente (Napa Valley, USA)
- Château Léoville-Las Cases (Saint-Julien, Bordeaux)
- Ornellaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
With the formalities of the event over, we relaxed outside under the trees. There was free flowing Verve on pour coupled with some canapés to get us into the mood before lunch. For those first few brief minutes there was no gluten free option on offer and I watched the Boy devour his obscenely amazing smelling marron roll to himself. I was so hungry I nearly had shoestrings of saliva dripping down my face. Working my way through twenty wines has a way of doing that to my appetite! Thankfully I wasn’t kept waiting long and my own gluten free adapted marron roll made its way out of the kitchen before the Boy even had a chance to finish his.
The most popular canapé served was by far the Arkady lamb breast. Hardly an elegant morsel to eat at the best of times, I was lucky not to be wearing most of what I ate. Or maybe that was just the drool. After skipping breakfast followed by downing all those wines, I am assuring you I ate quite a few of these babies! 😉
After multiple rounds of lamb and marron, we made our way down onto the lawn where a beautiful white marquee was erected for lunch. We had live entertainment and the atmosphere was relaxed and jovial compared to the intense concentration and silence during the tastings.
Our first course was a velvety textured, slow cooked ocean trout served with a tomato and basil dressing, lemon celeriac remoulade and spiced marinated cucumber. After a morning of heavy reds, it was a nice interlude to lighten up the palate. The trout was matched with Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012.
For the main course we received a tender Butterfield beef short rib alongside some charred carrots and pine nut cream. To pair with this dish all twenty of the 2011 Cabernets that we tasted earlier were brought out and poured liberally until the late afternoon. I appreciated why this event cost so much as they were very generous with the serves.
We ended our incredible day with a cheese board containing some of my favourite French cheeses; Marcel Petite Gruyere de Comte, Fourme d’Ambert and Jouvence Brie Fermier. I was even given gluten free crackers on the side which was thoughtful of the chefs.
The Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting was an incredibly unique experience and something quite unlike anything I have done before. It is a long day of drinking with the event starting at 10am and running into the late afternoon. It attracted both serious wine buffs and amateurs like me and had a non-pretentious and relaxed vibe…provided you do not talk during the tasting (note to self).
Disclaimer: Chompchomp paid in full for her ticket to the Gourmet Escape International Cabernet Celebration 2014. And, for those enquiring….no, she did not fall on her head at this event. She did however discover that Jacques Reymond is her father’s dopplerganger and consequently filled by Cabernet she MAY have waltzed over to the famous chef with the Boy armed with a photo of her father on her phone to enlighten Jacques of this fact. Suffice to say Jacques had swilled his own substantial quantity of Cabernet that afternoon and was left somewhat confused by our excitement. She will let you decided for yourselves.
Revolving restaurants hit widespread popularity back in the seventies and I even remember as a child growing up in the eighties the whole concept still sounded super modern and space aged. These days many of them around the world have closed after bearing badges of being labelled tourist traps with high prices and poor quality food.
C Restaurant is Perth’s only revolving restaurant and is situated up on level 33 of the St Martins Tower in the heart of the CBD. Our first visit to this restaurant was many moons ago back when it was called Hilite 33 for one of my very first dates with the Boy.
Back in those days the BankWest building was the only tall skyscraper in the city and it never ceases to amaze me how much our city has grown. Whilst the Boy and I have fond memories of our earlier meals dining there in the late nineties, we eventually stopped going as we found their attention to detail and quality of food started to decline.
I recently received an invitation to return to C Restaurant to try their new Spring menu. I was initially reluctant to accept this offer given our last few meals there but then I reminded myself that that was indeed some time ago.
Unlike the much higher priced weekend menu, C Restaurant’s mid-week menu offers a four course meal for the relatively bargain price of $99. There were a number of options available including vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. How often do you see a dedicated vegan menu in a fine dining venue?
For those who have never seen Perth from the heights of one of our sky scrapers, a visit to C Restaurant is justified by just the view alone. Over a ninety minute period you will get a full 360 degree view of our beautiful city. I recommend to come for an early dinner so you can see one rotation with daylight and one with the night lights.
To my relief and somewhat surprise the food at C was more than just good. It was enough of a reason to visit even without the view. Each dish was plated with a number of different components with the Boy’s Wagyu and my lamb both being done “two ways” with a number of different sauces spotted around the plate.
This technique always risks appearing over complicated if the flavours are not balanced well but the chef pulled it off. Better still a lot of the menu focused on utilising some brilliant West Australian produce including my favourite dish for the night, a delicate soft marron with pillows of velvety scallops and an organic citrus quinoa salad.
Toward the end of the night in a true Martine moment I managed to drop my phone on top of my chestnut meringue before managing to take a reasonable photo.
For a split second the perfectionist in me was tempted to send it back in order to get a better shot before my logic took over. Suffice to say, smashed meringue tastes just as good as intact versions.
The Boy was happy to follow my specific request to order himself the chocolate fondant for his dessert. Whilst I cannot get to enjoy the taste of such a treat due to all that evil gluten, just being able to watch him cut into its centre and squeal as the molten chocolate oozes out was enough to excite me.
I think the concept of a revolving restaurant has won back some ground with me; whilst there were a number of tourists dining around us there wasn’t a vibe of this restaurant being exclusive designed for such a market. We found the service to be attentive without being obtrusive, and the food was more than a pleasant surprise.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of C Restaurant receiving the offer of a meal with one beverage for her and the Boy free of charge. My opinion are my own and I have not embellished or enhanced the story. And yes, I did actually drop my iPhone onto my dessert and snap it in half. C Restaurant Level 33, 44 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9220 8333 | crestaurant.com.au
As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Within minutes of arriving at Saint Crispin, the four of us agreed on the tasting menu choosing the five courses for $100. A bargain by Perth price standards I have to say. To commence the gastronomic journey, our amuse bouche for the evening were cute fluffy green olive and cocoa nib Madeleines. They were served with a slightly sweet, smoked hay foam with dehydrated black olive grated on top.
Our first course was presented immaculately; a lightly seared chunk of yellowfin tuna still dark pink in the centre which dissolved on contact with my tongue. It was served with some anise braised fennel, mussels and poached calamari.
Perched on top of the tuna was a snap-crackle-and-pop squid ink and tapioca cracker. A carefully placed dollop of rocket emulsion added a subtle pepperiness to balance the flavours.
Fresh seasonal ingredients continued to feature heavily on the menu with our next dish focusing on new season asparagus. With some asparagus blanched and some shaved raw they were dressed in an asparagus gazpacho and served with an unusual roasted parmesan custard. The custard was as smooth as silk and contained flaked almonds for added crunch.
As each dish was as delicately perfect as the next, I could feel a sense of warm pride across the table. Some of them follow the blog and know very well that I enjoy eating damn fine food! Seeing me impressed and highly satisfied with our meal so far meant their delegated job of choosing a restaurant was a job well done.
Our third course was the Atlantic salmon served with a parsley risotto. The salmon was cooked sous-vide giving it a wondrous buttery texture. Fresh spring vegetables including zucchini, broad beans and peas mixed into the creamy risotto along with some fresh prawns.
Unlike many of my blogging foodie friends, I am not really a pork lover. Whilst I would never refuse food that I wasn’t allergic to, I would never actively chose to order pork for myself off the menu. Additionally I feel it needs to be jaw-droppingly amazing for me to enjoy it to any large degree.
For our fourth course, we were served a crispy pork jowl with miso marinated cubes of pork neck. Was this going to be a hit or a miss for this ambivalent pork eater? Well a winner it was, such to the point that I even offered to finish off the tooth-chipping crackling from my friend sitting next to me. I shared it with the others of course 😉
The pork accompanied an heirloom carrot salad with star anise and finished with a white soy and sesame gel. It was absolutely heavenly.
I didn’t want the magic to end but as each course was a reasonably substantial size for a tasting menu I was starting running out of room. Our dessert was the perfect finisher.
Smooth mango creamoux was served with small chunks of diced mango, caramelised milk crumble yoghurt pebbles and a scoop of jasmine ice cream. With all that mango, this was not exactly a fructose friendly dessert but I was prepared with glucose tablets that I chugged back on the drive back to Dad’s apartment. Some things are worth a belly ache for and this was one of them.
We ended the night with some house made passionfruit jubes. A little bit salty and a little bit sour, I wasn’t expecting such a flavour punch from these innocent little cubes.
Saint Crispin is a class act, following all the principles in modern dining that I love. Lots of small tasting dishes, fresh seasonal and local produce, and photogenic food presentation. To add to all this, the staff were relaxed and knowledgeable without any pretension. If only it wasn’t so far from Perth!Disclaimer: Despite Chompchomp carrying the flag for the cats of Australia, her own two feline fur-children are yet to earn their keep and help fund her valiant efforts to improve the health and welfare of cats. Consequently this meal was funded for by herself but she has been assured it is only a matter of time before the two lads start bringing home the cash. In fact, her youngest fur-son Eddie has already been attaining some cameo appearances on Channel 7! 😉
300 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC 3066 | (03) 9419 2202 | www.saintcrispin.com.au
Mandoon Estate have been producing boutique wines in the Swan Valley since 2010, and this year marks the opening of their incredible restaurant and beer garden. To celebrate this achievement, last week they held an invitation only Grand Opening launch party to introduce Perthites to this new kid on the block.
The venue is huge with a classy fine dining restaurant offering a degustation menu, a large beer hall facing out onto the vineyards serving shared tapas styled food, a casual beer garden where you can purchase “picnics” from the deli, private dining rooms, function rooms and more.
It is quite unlike anything in the Valley and sets a new standard for the region. Within minutes of our arrival I was already imagining the next event I could plan here! 😉
For the launch party, guests were treated to a number of bite size samples from the kitchen including plum coated slow roasted pork and the most tender Buffalo wings that slid off the bone in one gulp.
The service staff were very friendly and knowledgeable about the food that they were serving. After requesting what I could eat that was gluten free, one kind waitress came back minutes later with a plate of gluten free starters just for me.
Dotted around the vast venue were also some food stations. Our favourite was the sashimi and oyster bar which was set up inside the beer hall. Over the course of the evening the Boy nearly ate his whole body weight in sashimi and amidst a few groans was feeling a little overindulged for our drive homeward later that night.
Over in the beer garden were more food stations. The Peking Duck station was popular enough to accrue a queue of hungry guests however it was sadly not gluten free. I loved the colourful dessert station and was mesmerised by the chef torching the brulée as quickly as they were being whisked away by guests.
Mandoon Estate is a very impressive venue and would be a wonderful place to hire out for a large function or wedding party. I am hoping to return soon to check out their degustation menu which at a glance looked very focused on local produce from the region. Stay tuned for more….Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Mandoon Estate and would like to extend her appreciation for the invitation. Mandoon Estate 10 Harris Road, Caversham, WA 6055 | (08) 6279 0500 | www.mandoonestate.com.au
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
In my usual extravagant style, I poo-pooed the idea of just going to a restaurant and eating one or two mushroom dishes and approached a couple of Perth’s top chefs to hit me up with a specifically designed Mushroom Mania degustation. I started off my journey at the new Highgate restaurant St Michael 6003 where we were taken on a journey of crackles and pops with a few surprises.
For my second part of this journey, I contacted Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse to see if he was keen to participate. Amusé is by far and by large the best fine dining restaurant in Perth and this is proven by their succession of accolades won year after year. There is a significant waiting list to get a table but believe me it is worth the wait. We have visited Amuse several times over the years however this was to be the first time since I started blogging. Despite there being many years between visits, I can always be assured that my dietary requirements are not only just catered for, but that they remember them without me having to remind them. The level of attention to detail and customer service is quite out of this world and every visit we have been made to feel like we are special, even when I wasn’t wielding a heavy camera.
Our evening began as is always the custom at Amusé with a few rounds of “snacks”; the first of which were paper thin crackers made from quinoa and some gluten free choux filled with ooey gooey Gruyère cheese fondue. I literally squealed with delight as the liquid cheese dribbled down my fingers.
The second snack looked very innocent but was a powerhouse of flavour; a slice of pickled radish topped with smoked crème fraiche and finished with salmon roe. A faint dusting of leek ash deepened the smoky flavours.
For our last round of snacks we received a bowl of tomato consommé. This little cup of goodness balanced flavours together precisely, with sago and pickled crab meat for texture and a couple of carefully added drops of toasted shell fish oil.
The consomme was finished with fresh lovage, chervil and wild garlic. Lovage has a mild bitter flavour similar to celery and coupled well with the gentle aniseed taste of the chervil.
Both the Boy and I come from families with big appetites. This is in part why the two of us first fell in love. Although I am a small framed person, I can knock back a surprisingly large amount of food and it takes a fair amount of eating to fill me up. I actually think I lack the fullness switch in my brain.
I can always be guaranteed to receive freshly baked gluten free bread at Amusé but even better still, unlike many degustations, it never stops at a single serve. The Bannister Downs house churned butter was whipped to a foamy light texture and I could have nearly eaten it on its own without any bread. Despite knowing we had another eight courses ahead of us, neither of us could turn down the offer for more bread and butter.
For the main courses, Hadleigh chose a different type of mushroom to be the hero ingredient for each dish. The first mushroom to star on the menu were ceps, or porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms are considered by some to be the king of mushrooms and are highly regarded for their meaty texture and nutty, creamy flavour.
A perfect spear of white asparagus from Bickley Valley was paired with crispy house made guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek.
Swirled across the plate were added contrasting flavours from salty bottarga mayonnaise, creamy buttermilk dressing and a nutty flaxseed gomasio. The dish was finished with wafer thin cep milk skins.
Our second course brought more chirrups of delight from me as the enoki mushroom took centre stage. There is something about these adorable mushrooms that never fails to excite me and I have been known to add them at random to a variety of my dishes at home, sometimes inappropriately. Under a blanket of precisely positioned enoki heads was a smooth squid congee made with local Busselton squid. Luscious umami flavours from a mushroom dashi added in sumptuous depth to the dish.
We moved onto a more richly flavour mushroom for the next course using shiitake with chicken rice. I do love my chicken rice but this was a very cultured masterpiece quite unlike any chicken rice I have ever relished in Singapore and beyond. It was a structurally wonderful version with many elements to it to provide that level of wow factor that you can always expect at Amuse.
Roast vinegar chicken and a purée of shiitake were cooked over coals giving a slightly charred taste and served on a bed of traditional Japanese sushi rice. Our waiter served the dish with a chicken broth that was poured tableside.
The chicken was velvety smooth which markedly contrasted the added surprise of crunchy puffed buckwheat and amaranth, crispy nori wafers and a luscious creamy egg emulsion. It was challenge for the senses but in totally good way; with silky, crunchy, meaty and smooth textures all in one mouthful. As one of my colleagues at work loves to say; it was a “party in my mouth!”
It was going to be hard to impress me more than the chicken rice did and while the next dish was divine, it didn’t manage to take away the highlight of its incredible predecessor. Going for something a bit more leftfield, Hadleigh created a dish using lamb sweetbreads and braised morels mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms have a very rich, earthy flavour which went perfectly with the milder tasting, tender sweet breads. It was served on a parsley gremolata and topped with crunchy shoestring fries and crispy salt bush.
With the subdued lighting in the restaurant, the final main course was the hardest to photograph and tested the boundaries of my camera’s capabilities. A Butterfield beef short rib was served with a medley of roasted oyster, pickled shimeji and raw button mushrooms.
Dollops of broad bean puree and black garlic “BBQ” sauce decorated around the plate looking deceptively innocent. The subtle flavours of the bean purée made the polarised sensations of syrupy sweet black garlic BBQ sauce take the Boy’s tastebuds by surprise.
Our pre-dessert was titled cumquat, walnut and apricot. It was one of the few dishes in our degustation without mushrooms as an ingredient and took on the resemblance of one in appearance instead. A very cute gesture. Using cumquat curd and cumquat meringue with smooth walnut ice cream and apricot sorbet, this was the perfect pre-dessert to cleanse our tantalised palate ready for the finale.
Upon reading our menu earlier in the night, I cannot deny I was thoroughly impressed with the addition of mushrooms into the dessert. I was also a teeny bit sceptical. However, if anyone could pull off using mushrooms in a sweet dish, I knew it would be Hadleigh!
A smoked mushroom and chocolate mousse covered in ginger and Geraldton Wax granita was served with whipped blood orange and a ball of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate sorbet wrapped in thin layer of crisp white chocolate.
To add a final bit of zing to the dish some blood orange sherbet tumbled over the top like a cascade of snow. Neither of us uttered a single word as we devoured each mouthful in a blissful state of rare silence.
To end our night of wonderment, we were given hot cups of fresh mint tea infused with native pepper berries. After all the colours of overindulgence, the tea helped kick start our digestion and we both drifted off into the beginnings of a food coma. The tea was paired with some vanilla infused West Australian desert limes and a couple of passion fruit and white chocolate drops for a kick of sweetness.
I cannot believe we left it this long between visits to Amusé, this being our fourth visit since they opened eight years ago. After each and every visit the two of us have walked away from a faultless evening. The service is exquisitely polished with every dish unique and equally incredible. If you haven’t been yet, you are seriously missing out.Disclaimer: This amazing degustation was funded by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association as part of Mushroom Mania 2014. Full of fibre, flavour and containing many scientifically proven health properties, the mushroom is a food that should be on everyone’s weekly shopping list. We are fortunate enough in Australia to be able to source a wide variety of mushrooms to eat with each variety having its own individual flavour and texture. For more information head to the Power of Mushrooms website. Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte Street, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
The Boy and I arrived a bit early, it is easy to forget how close this part of the Valley is to the city. It only took us twenty minutes to get there from our house in Vic Park. There aren’t many cities around the world that boast being this close to a vineyard region! We ordered some bread and Lescure butter while we waited for his family to arrive. The Boy’s dinner roll was so shiny it glimmered in the sun. My gluten free bread was also quite a treat; it was toasted in a sandwich press giving it a satisfying crunchy exterior yet the inside of the bread still remained soft.
There were a number of dishes on the menu that were either gluten free or able to be adapted. The chefs at RiverBank make all their meals fresh to order so changing or altering ingredients to accommodate for dietary requirements was not an issue for them. The Boy and I started with sharing two entrées together.
The house cured salmon was prepared using high quality fish topped with horseradish cream and beetroot jelly. The salmon had a luscious melt in the mouth texture without leaving any strong fishy aftertaste.
Our second entrée was the seared scallops served on a bed of roasted sweet potato and garlic purée. It was topped with some shards of crispy pancetta. The scallops were much more substantial sized than those I had recently with my Dad in Melbourne and left a wonderful creamy texture on the palate.
Both my mother-in-law and I ordered the fish of the day; a Gold Band snapper served with a summery celeriac and caper coleslaw. Our plates were an array of colour garnished with vibrant spring flowers that were nearly too pretty to eat.
The snapper was topped with a Japanese squid salad along with a spoonful of fresh Moreton Bay bug salsa. After all my recent excessive overeating this dish was just the perfect, light meal that I was looking for.
My father in law and sister both ordered the pork belly which I didn’t get a chance to grab a photo of but they were both very happy with their choices. The Boy and his brother both ordered the more hearty braised duck leg which was served with a polenta and rabbit terrine and sautéed wild mushrooms. This dish was also gluten free which allowed me to have a little nibble.
The duck was slightly overcooked making some of the meat a little dry. There was plenty of juiciness from the rich mushrooms to balance this out to a degree. The Boy also felt the polenta was a little bland in flavour.
The Boy’s family are big eaters and so I made sure to order some sides to make sure that they were all full by the end of the afternoon. Our waitress advised me that their chips cannot be guaranteed gluten free as the deep fryer may contain traces of gluten. However the duck fat potatoes were fried in the pan making them gluten free. I couldn’t help but reach over and grab a couple before they all vanished.
For our desserts the most popular dish across the table was the soft meringue which luckily was also the gluten free dessert option on the menu. It was served with poached pear slices, bright pink raspberry sorbet and Persian fairy floss, or “hair” as the Boy likes to call it. The meringue was fluffy, squishy and delicious all in one mouthful. A winner all around the table.
The Boy being his usual self opted for feeding his addiction and ordered a selection of ice cream and sorbet. No surprises there! It is hard not to please him with a bowl of ice cream and there were certainly no complaints.
RiverBank Estate proved to be the perfect spot for us to meet up with my in-laws for Sunday lunch. The meals were big enough to feed their Dutch appetites and the atmosphere was relaxed enough for us to while away the afternoon laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I look forward to finding another family occasion to bring them back!Disclaimer: As much as Chompchomp and the Boy would loved to be wealthy enough to say “lunch is on us” sadly they are still waiting to win first division lotto and hope that this will be happening in the near future. It’s only a matter of time really. Instead they opted to use their Entertainment card for a discount off the total bill. RiverBank Estate 126 Hamersley Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 1805 | riverbankestate.com.au
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
It has been years since Mum has come over to visit us in Perth and even longer since she came over with her other half, Jack. They both adore our South West region and requested that we take them down to “The Margaret’s River” as Mum loves to call it. No amount of convincing can get her to call it otherwise.
It is rare for us to be able to relax together so to celebrate this occasion I booked us in at Vasse Felix winery for a long lazy lunch. On our way to Vasse Felix we stopped off at Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company.
Neither Mum nor Jack are big wine drinkers so the Boy and I tried to avoid boring them to pieces with winery after winery. Bettenay’s do have some wines on offer in addition to some luscious liqueurs and, of course, loads of nougat. Their nougat is all handcrafted with gorgeous flavours including cherry and coconut, and my favourite chocolate mint.
After each purchasing a bundle of nougat we headed off to one of Margaret River’s most popular caves; Lake Cave. It has been ages since the Boy and I have gone down into the caves yet every time we do we are reminded what a natural beauty it is.
Lake Cave has one of the only “suspended tables” in the world which weighs several tonnes and forms a breathtaking sight floating in the air casting its refection in the ripples of water below. This cave is one of the deepest in the region so be prepared to walk down and then back up a fair number of steep stairs. There are rest points along the way for those less fit and able.
There were enough stairs to work up anyone’s appetite and after the Caves we headed straight to Vasse Felix for lunch. It was a long weekend and I was grateful that I had pre-booked because every winery that we passed along the way looked packed with cars.
Vasse Felix have an à la carte menu or alternatively if you select dishes marked on the menu with a star you can enjoy three courses for a set price of $65.
There were a handful of gluten free options and one vegetarian dish for each course. Upon arrival our waitress brought out some fresh bread and cultured butter. There was no gluten free bread available so they kindly brought out some marinated olives for me to nibble on while my family hungrily feasted on the bread.
The marinated olives are sourced from a local olive farm called 34 Degrees South and were served warm. I loved how the olive flesh slithered off the pit easily and consequently I downed most of the bowl before I realised that I should probably share.
Mum and Jack both ordered the omelette for entrée. Cooked sous-vide with mirin, it was served with new season asparagus and locally foraged mushrooms. The egg was browned to a glowing caramel colour and garnished with chilli threads, tiny crumbles of popcorn and togarashi. Togarashi is a type of Japanese chilli pepper and thankfully it wasn’t too hot for my Mum’s palate. The omelette was a gluten free dish however to avoid all three of us having the same dish, I ordered the other gluten free option which was the quail.
I struggled somewhat get a good photo of my entrée due to the sun coming in at an angle on my deep bowled dish. Maybe I need to bring a reflector with me when I’m out dining? Is that too crazy? My quail breast was cooked sous-vide with a confit leg and served on a bed of quinoa, zucchini and olives. It was topped with what I first thought was shaved parmesan but soon found out was feta shaved in liquid nitrogen. It had an unexpected creaminess that dissolved on contact with my tongue. To enhance the delicateness of this light dish some caper puree added some punch into the flavours.
For his entrée, the Boy decided to pop his ramen cherry. Ramen hasn’t really taken off in Perth to the extent it has over in Sydney and therefore neither of us have tried it before. Using house made ramen noodles, this dish was given a South-west twist using Manjimup marron and local fresh water crustaceans. A soft gooey quail egg and some fried nori finished it off and as the aromas wafted to my side of the table I was so envious that I couldn’t even taste one mouthful. Damn you gluten!
For those of you who have yet to try Cone Bay barramundi, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. These fish are farmed in unique environmental conditions in the north west of Australia that imparts a very clean, and sweet taste.
The fish came with a potato fondant and shards of translucent potato glass topped with luxurious drizzles of smoked oyster butter. It was nearly as good as truffle butter. Nearly I said! There was also a little bit of fructose naughtiness with locally foraged charred leeks and leek foam.
Mum and Jack both ordered the lamb shank for their main, such peas in a pod those two! The locally sourced lamb was cooked sous-vide over 48 hours making it uber-soft in texture however sadly it was served lukewarm. I offered to get the waitress to take it back to the kitchen but my Mum didn’t want to make a fuss. The lamb was accompanied with a black barley risotto and ratatouille made of smoked tomato petal, tomato fondue, picked red onion and eggplant purée.
Although the Boy predominantly will stick to his vegetarian diet at home, like me he can on occasions crave meat. Ordering himself the kangaroo loin today was one of these days.
The loin was served rare and was as lean can be without an ounce of detectable fat present. It was served with textures of beetroot, wattleseed crackers and oil made from dandelions foraged on the property.
Our mains were decent sized meals so after stuffing our faces with the addictive duck fat potatoes there was only a small amount of room left for dessert. We agreed to share a couple of petit fours plates between the four of us however the only gluten free element on the plate was the passionfruit macaron. There was only one macaron on each platter but the waitress was kind enough to put an extra one on there for me.
The Boy was absolutely smitten by the bite size ice cream sandwich made with cinnamon ice cream. Many of us food bloggers claim to have a second stomach for dessert and whilst I was reasonably full, one macaron was not going to cut it even if it was one of my favourite flavours.
Consequently I ordered the gluten free dessert option to share with the Boy. I love abstract desserts, plates of multiple elements that you can mix and match on your tastebuds at your leisure. Fluffy portions of cardamom chiffon cake and silky chocolate cremeaux were paired with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Passionfruit caramel and gel added a tart sweetness with chocolate soil and dehydrated mouse contrasting with velvety cocoa bitterness. Heavenly to say the least. My claims for being full surpassed me as I competed with the Boy for every spoonful.
The weekend went by all too quickly, time honestly does fly when you’re having fun. There is no one in the world that can make me laugh the way my Mum can and I realise that I need to stop running the rat race of life and take time out to giggle with her more often.Disclaimer: Despite Mum and Jack insisting on trying to pay for everything, the Boy and I managed to sneak in paying our own way for lunch. Blame it on that independent streak of mine. I want to thank Mum, Jack and my beloved for sharing such a wondrous weekend away. Our times together are always cherished xxxx Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Co Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Miamup Road, Cowaramup, WA 6284 | (08) 9755 5539 | www.margaretrivernougat.com.au Lake Cave Caves Road, Forest Grove WA 6284 | (08) 9757 7411 | www.margaretriver.com/operators/7706 Vasse Felix Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au