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.
Being a veterinarian makes me the only scientist in my direct family; my mother is a retired Jazz singer, my father is a fashion designer and even my sister will oil paint in her spare time. Whilst I do enjoy the freedom and creativity of the arts, my strongest loyalties will always lie with my furry patients and their owners.
This isn’t to say I don’t love and cherish my blog too and with Chompchomp turning three this month it has been so exciting to watch my readership steadily grow each year. I find it so touching to know that through my writing I can help others with food intolerances find the courage to dine out while still providing some entertainment to those who are not restricted in their diet. These days I find my inbox filling up with invitations and product trials at an alarmingly fast rate. Because of my long shifts and late hours, there are many events that I have to knock back and I need to ensure to only choose the ones that I think are relevant to me and my readers.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I never have enough time. I struggle to relax and seem to thrive on fast paced hyperactivity. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that this lifestyle started to take its toll prompting me to seek medical advice when I could no longer even run without collapsing on the couch. As a direct result I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia which then led onto discovering my gluten and fructose issues.
I stick to my gluten free diet religiously and find this is easy to do as there are life threatening risks for me if I don’t. Coeilacs who eat gluten raise their risks of intestinal cancer significantly along with risking developing a bunch of other horrible diseases. In contrast, I find following my fructose friendly diet much, much more difficult to adhere to. Whilst eating fructose does cause some unpleasant effects, it doesn’t causing any permanent damage to my body. I consequently wax and wane from being vigilantly fructose friendly to chancing the risk of a gut ache for something tasty to eat.
If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
I don’t know what it is about wet, windy nights that sometimes inspires me to want to leave the comfort of my home and eat out. Mostly when I get these fanciful urges, the Boy will sensibly put his foot down and insist we stay at home where it is warm and dry. However on occasions, for reasons I have yet to pin point, he will sporadically and unpredictably consent to my absurd proposition and off we go together with overcoats and matching umbrellas in hand. Whenever this glorious union in thought occurs, I get disproportionately excited like a child that has just been given an oversized bag of candy. I have to love this guy for always keeping me on my toes!
After a couple of teasing days of sunshine, our Perth weather turned sour and my bizarre desire to head out to a restaurant in the rain returned. I wanted to check out a relatively new bar opened in Applecross called Bad Apples Bar and after enticing the Boy with offers of beer and pizza he willingly accepted.
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.
Despite knowing that the menu at Ace Pizza is devoid of gluten free pizza options, this has been a venue that has remained on my wish list for some time. Don’t be fooled by their name, whilst I’m told Ace’s pizzas are far from shabby it’s their share plates that I was keen to try. Being paid monthly means when we hit the end of the month we are scratching for a cheap place to eat out without compromising on our needs for quality or flavour. I was hoping Ace Pizza would fulfil this basic need.
Dishes are certainly cheap, reasonably sized and served with lickity split, no fuss speed. Perhaps too much so as within about ten minutes of placing our order all of our dishes had made their way to our table. There were a number of gluten free and vegetarian options to suit both our needs however as is often the case, we ordered far too much food.
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.
The Boy and I were struck down with the killer Flu of the Year this month and it completely knocked the stuffing out of us. Everything became a huge effort and suffice to say life wasn’t much fun. At the tail end of our sickness we decided to cheer ourselves up and head out to the Avon Valley for the Toodyay Food Festival. Toodyay is roughly an hour’s drive from our house and when we got about half way both of us became overwhelmingly tired and nauseous.
It took about five minutes of us whingeing to each other before we realised the insanity of what we were trying to do. Walking around a food festival when I could barely stand up followed by another hours drive home sounded more like torture than enjoyment. We agreed this idea was a little ambitious and turned the car back around. As we headed home I realised we had nothing in the fridge because I had originally anticipated we would be stuffing our faces at the festival. We took a detour through Belmont and landed at Sapore Espresso.
I have never been one to listen to mainstream commercial radio stations. Since my teens I have always preferred to listen to either Triple J or more locally based community stations such as RTRFM. This in part comes from my dislike of commercial music and advertisements but also because I have a desire to hear new, interesting music that hasn’t already been played on the radio a hundred times over.
RTRFM is one of Perth’s most popular community radio stations and they are well-known for their individuality and progressive broadcasting. In April this year RTR’s weekday show Drivetime launched a segment called The Food Alternative. It is aired every Tuesday night and brings a range of guests onto the show including bloggers, chefs and culinary experts. They have covered topics such as wine in the Swan Valley, artisan raw chocolate and how to find the hidden gems to eat in Chinatown.
Australia has just announced the inception of its very first Humane Food Region. Being a patriotic Western Australian I was so proud to learn that this region was the Swan Valley. The Humane Food movement is an initiative from the RSPCA to recognise businesses that are committed to using food that can be defined as animal welfare friendly. This means more than just labelling products as cage free eggs and free range pork. It translates to these animals being able to have a better quality of life and respects their need to be able to live in an environment that is more natural for them.
Whilst the obvious solution to avoid these animal’s potential suffering is to switch to eating a vegan diet, it is not realistic to expect the entire general population to make this paradigm shift. The Humane Food movement aims at achieving the highest animal welfare standards possible in these industries in order to ensure that these innocent creatures are treated kindly and live a happier life without fear and stress.
Following a gluten free diet has become second nature to me. Ingesting just a tiny crumb of gluten has such a profound effect that there is simply no point me risking a reaction. Our whole household is gluten free to avoid any contamination and the Boy is more than happy to eat a gluten free diet with me.
In contrast, my sensitivity to eating dairy products is not so black and white and I can tolerate small amounts. Being able to eat a little bit now and then leads me into a false sense of confidence as it isn’t something I have to avoid totally like gluten, I just try to minimise my intake. I have never been good at minimisation and generally prefer to take the all-or-nothing approach with most things in life, especially food. Progressive day to day carelessness in restricting my dairy intake is generally brought to a grinding halt after one of my hedonistic cheese binges. These joyous cheesy evenings always result in my skin becoming so inflamed and sore that I can barely stretch my fingers fully open. Consequently I have learnt to try to only eat dairy on special occasions.
When I find something I love, I complete submerge myself into a level of addiction that often needs to be controlled by an external party, usually the Boy. Or sometimes it is controlled by the increasing numbers on my bathroom scales. Nevertheless, over the years I have come to accept that this is part of my personality and provided I have someone to check me into line when I get too carried away, it is a quick way to brighten up my day. Some of my obsessions are long lasting and others come and go like fashion so I thought I would share with you my top five gluten free indulgences for Winter 2014.
There are a small handful of restaurants dotted around Perth that I have particularly soft spot for. The mention of their name will always bring a smile to my face and propositions to return will always be met with a resounding yes. Must Wine bar is one of these venues. I have enjoyed countless meals in this classic French bistro with friends and family alike and I feel that I can always depend upon them to deliver polished service and quality dishes. Of course this meant that upon receiving an invitation to return to sample their new Bistro lunch special I was quick to schedule this lunch date in.
There are two components that I need in order to happily publish a blog post about a restaurant; I need pretty photos and I need an interesting story. If either of those are lacking then it doesn’t matter how good the experience was I just cannot bring myself to publish it. Call it pride, vanity, perfectionism, whatever it is I cannot control it. My first visit to La Cholita, a Mexican bar in Northbridge presented me with this exact problem.
It was a great night out with fellow blogger Foodie Cravings which had originally started off with plans for us to attend an Eat Drink Perth movie event. However on arrival we found out there was no gluten free fare available so our evening evolved into an impromptu night of tacos, tostadas and wine at La Cholita. We laughed, shared stories and ate until we nearly popped; something that isn’t exactly unusual for the two of us. The next day I looked back on my photos and my heart sunk. They were all total crap!!!
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.
For many years The Brisbane Hotel was one of our regular Sunday Session drinking holes. However in recent years our careers, families and a hint of maturity have replaced these fun-filled afternoons making them less and less frequent. Furthermore since becoming a food blogger, I find myself searching out new venues to visit rather than returning to our tried and tested favourites. Consequently, I confess I haven’t eaten at the Brisbane for well over a year, maybe longer. Last week I received an invitation to come along to their wintertime Tuesday “Roast and Red” night.
Tuesday isn’t exactly a night that I would expect to see people out and about yet the Brisbane was alive with activity with customers drinking at the bar as well as those dining in. We were shown to our table and I was offered the “dietary requirements menu”. This wasn’t just the normal menu with scribbles and lines drawn across it but rather a specifically printed menu filled with gluten free and vegetarian options. This was a quick and easy way to impress me as there were loads of options on there including gluten free pizzas.
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.