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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Many of you know that my day job is totally unrelated to food. I am a vet, and this means a career of long hours, late nights and a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Attaining a work life balance has always been a battle for me and the Boy plays a huge role in making me see the bigger picture. Whilst I would never neglect to care for a patient that needs me, to be at my best I need to stay fit and well rested otherwise, like many of my colleagues, I face burn out.
Depression is rife among veterinarians, in our profession we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. A frightening fact, yet, one that most people in our industry have had to face one way or another.
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
There has been much buzz around the recent opening of the new restaurant St Michael 6003 in Highgate. Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage and Todd Stuart from Petite Mort have paired together to open this suave new joint located in Jackson’s old digs on Beaufort Street. Former Red Cabbage sous chef Adam Sayles has taken the reins to produce something intriguingly refined, modern and creative. This individuality has not gone unnoticed by high-profile foodies with St Michael recently starring in the weekly Hot Plates feature on the Gourmet Traveller website.
Last year for the Mushroom Mania campaign, one of my sponsored meals was a mushroom degustation at Red Cabbage and this year I was hopeful that their brand new sister restaurant would be willing to do something similar. I was very appreciative that Chef Adam was happy to come on board and create a couple of mushroom dishes for us to enjoy.
My friends and family will tell you that I have always been an enthusiastic and excitable person. My facial features and hands rarely remain expressionless and I often suffer from a lack of volume control. There are some things in my life that can further amplify these personality traits and I have a tendency to obsess over them. To name a few. Cats. Raw chocolate. Popcorn. Running. Mushrooms. Slow cooked eggs. And black truffles. My black truffle addiction gains force each year as I seek out bigger and better truffle experiences.
For those not in the know I am not referring to a type of chocolate. Black truffles are weird looking balls of fungus that grow underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. They are a highly sought after delicacy and sell for thousands of dollars per kilo. Truffles only grow for a very limited season over wintertime and do not hold a very long shelve life.
Enjoying gluten free Italian cuisine in a restaurant is a rare luxury for me. Whilst it is easy to make gluten free pasta dishes at home, the number of Italian restaurants that can accommodate us are few and far between. Nearly three years ago, my gastroenterologist insisted I return to eating gluten for nearly seven torturous weeks in order to take the necessary biopsies for Coeliac disease testing. It was a hard slog with every day becoming an effort as the “poison” of gluten decayed my health.
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
Prior to travelling up to the North West corner of Australia for the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional final, I wanted to touch base with the region’s designated chef Peter Manifis. Peter will be judging the four finalists in a cook off in order to select the winning dish that will represent the Gascoyne for the finale. He will then spend time closely with the regional winner mentoring and training them to give them the best chance at winning the competition.
Peter is the part owner and Executive chef for InContro, one of the fine dining local restaurants in my area. The restaurant is located on the South Perth Esplanade and overlooks the Swan River facing towards the Perth City skyline. It makes such a romantic spot for an evening meal offering uninterrupted views of the city lights twinkling away on the water. The Boy and I have celebrated many special occasions at InContro so I was excited when I found out that I was to be working with Peter. Upon meeting him I was inspired to see someone even more enthusiastic and energetic than I am. Those of you who have met me will know that this is really quite an achievement!
Taste of Perth is a three-day food festival held at Langley Park from the 2nd to the 4th of May 2014. The Taste Festivals are popular all around the world and this is the first year the amazing event finally arrives in Perth. It brings together in one location many of our city’s famous chefs allowing visitors to sample a multitude of signature dishes in a single experience.
The chef line-up for the weekend includes some of the best dining Perth has to offer such as Nobu, Greenhouse, Silks, Print Hall, Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume, el Público , Co-op Dining, No4 Blake Street and Bib & Tucker.
Last year during the Gourmet Escape food and wine festival in Margaret River I attended a dinner event with Miles Irving, an Englishman known worldwide for promoting foraging of wild produce. In the aftermath of the evening I found no desire to write about my experience largely because the food served for the evening was bland and tasted more like catering than fine dining. And let’s be honest, what’s a blog post without pretty pictures? What also uninspired me was I felt the attitudes of the evening toward sustainability for our precious wildlife ecosystems was somewhat lacking. I was left disappointed and wanting to know more about what our native food tastes like without damaging our delicate environment. Enter Fervor.
After nearly sixteen years of togetherness, the Boy and I still manage to find ways to surprise each other. Gestures of love can be as small as grabbing an unrequested favourite snack at the local deli right through to spontaneous bouquets of flowers, presents and most excitingly degustations! The Boy has always claimed to not be a dessert person however over recent months I realise this is not actually the case. He certainly doesn’t like your more traditional stodgy cakes and puddings but he is more than happy to fight me spoon for spoon for something fancier and somewhat de-constructed.
All of my direct family members reside over on the eastern coast of Australia; my Mum and Stepdad live in Adelaide and my Dad and Stepmum are in Melbourne. This means we only spend Christmas with them every couple of years as for both of us to get time off from work every year is impossible. Our flight over is always totally horrid with the plane invariably being filled with screaming babies, flustered hostesses and stressed out passengers. In stark contrast upon our arrival, we are always met with a cheerful, bustling household of family festivities and despite the path to get there being bumpy it is always totally worth it. Rockpool Perth
The Secret Cake Club is a Perth based group of of keen bakers that were originally known as the Perth Clandestine Cake Club. The Clandestine Cake Club is a worldwide phenomenon that was created two years ago by cake lover Lynn Hill in Leeds, UK. Her aim was to get people together in a relaxed social environment so they could “Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake”. Her concept is strictly for cake only and no cupcakes, brownies, pies or tarts are allowed. After received a scolding from Lynn Hill herself after not adhering to these rules the CCC organisers decided enough was enough and the Secret Cake Club was born. This new group prides themselves on having no rules and has reached considerable popularity with avid bakers from all around Perth. Their events are held every 4-6 weeks and places fill up fast.
For those of you living in Perth, think back to what it used to be like on a weeknight in our City five years ago. Once the day ended and the clock hit five, all the bustling daytime cafes and bars would shut and everyone would head straight home. Before long the streets of our capital would be stark empty and it was like you were standing in a ghost town. A rapidly growing city with a population of over one million people and yet we turned our backs on our own city centre!? Thankfully things didn’t stay that way forever and after some government incentives like the new small bars laws and the construction of flashy inner city apartment blocks; little sparks of life started popping up everywhere throughout the city. This energy has now burst into full flame and the memory of Perth’s once deserted streets is just an embarrassment of the past.
At my business we run an externship with the veterinary students every year which gives us the opportunity to put them through their paces. It provides a great way for them to gain further experience and confidence before they head out into the big wide world of employment. It is often during these externships that certain individuals shine and a couple of years back one of these externships led to our decision to offer the student a job.
Since officially joining our team, she has continued to impress us all with her standard of knowledge and dedication to her career. There have been many nights she has stayed back late with no complaints, come in on her days off and pitched in to help others without being asked. She is a valued team member who appears to be fast tracking herself to success. As a token of our appreciation I took her out for dinner with a couple of my business partners.
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!