Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
Back in March I attended a two-day feline veterinary conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Boy joined me at the end of the conference where we stayed on for an extra day to explore the city together before flying onto Vietnam for our anniversary holiday. As I’m not accustomed to sitting still for long periods, by the time the Boy arrived after my two conference days had finished I was full of energy like crazed, caged animal. We had only allocated one day for KL so to cover as much ground as possible I planned a busy schedule of eating with some sight-seeing and shopping thrown in for good measure.
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
For the final blog post on my trip to the coastal town of Carnarvon, I thought it would be useful to summarise my discoveries for my fellow gluten intolerants in a simple gluten free Carnarvon traveller’s guide.
Carnarvon is located about nine hundred kilometres north of Perth on the western coast of Australia. It is easily accessible by car, bus and air. This was my first trip up into the northern corner of our vast country and we originally planned to drive up on a long road trip from Perth. This would have taken us around ten hours excluding stops.
After a long drive through the pouring rain it was a relief to arrive in Carnarvon ready for the WA Signature Dish regional final. It had been a right kerfuffle getting to our destination with missed flights, flight delays and severe weather warnings but we made it albeit one day late.
We arrived in Carnarvon in the late afternoon and checked into our accommodation at the Best Western Hospitality Inn. Our room was clean and simply appointed with a minibar stocked with nibbles, beer, wine and soft drinks. There were also tea and coffee-making facilities, free WIFI and room service however the internet connection was painfully slow.
On our first night we were a little weary from travelling all day so we ate at the hotel restaurant Sails. Sails is considered one of the more refined dining options in town in addition to being one of the very few restaurants that remain open seven days a week.
Despite living in Western Australia for nearly twenty years I am ashamed to admit that I have never journeyed further north than the seaside town of Dongara to visit my Bestie. Whenever I plan a holiday, the centre point of our activities is always based around experiencing the food of the places we visit. I didn’t feel any foodie gravitational pull coming from this region of Australia imagining it to be not much more than white sandy beaches, cattle ranches and red expanses of desert. The Boy on the other hand is a huge advocate of the North West and has tried to encourage me to go for years. He was over the moon to hear I was chosen to be the Gascoyne regional blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish competition. He knew this would finally be the reason we could go up there together and he was convinced that I would love it.
I recently travelled up to the Northwest corner of Western Australia as the official blogger for the Gascoyne regional final in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. Having never visited this part of Australia before, I wanted to obtain a clear insight into its food industry in order to understand why they call themselves the “food bowl” of our State. The Boy and I flew in via Exmouth, collected ourselves a rental 4WD from the airport and drove straight to Carnarvon in the pouring rain to be ready to start early the next morning.
I wanted to find the most economical way to get to Carnarvon for the WA Signature Dish regional final. After toying with the idea of driving from Perth with a one way hire car, I ditched that thought in exchange for trading some Qantas frequent flyer points and catching a flight from Perth to Exmouth instead. Chuffed with the sensation I got something for nothing I proceeded to plan our detailed itinerary to explore the Gascoyne. However, despite all my organisation and planning it was soon to be upturned when I received an invite to attend the Taste of Perth Gala night along with my fellow official Eat Drink Perth bloggers. The Gala night coincided with the day we were due to fly out. I changed our flights to leave the following day so I could do both. Not a problem.
My mother and I share many personality qualities and when we spend time together it often feels like there is an overlap of our mother-daughter relationship with that of two best friends. When we are together we laugh a lot, often and easily, sometimes to the point of tears at things that others may not perceive as being quite that funny. Back when I was still at school, she was the “cool” mum that everyone else wanted as their mum. Now decades later we are separated by thousands of kilometres meaning our times spent with each other are more precious than ever before. Earlier this year the Boy and I headed back to Adelaide to visit her for a short weekender break. Mum is as much of a foodie as I am and so she organised to take us on a day trip into the McLaren Vale wine region. McLaren Vale is a short 45 minute drive from Adelaide’s city centre and is easy to visit on a day trip.
I am a massive believer in sourcing local produce and will go out of my way to ensure the majority of food I eat is locally grown, fished, farmed and produced in this beautiful State I call home. The logical way for me to do this is to buy direct from the producers themselves however this can be a very time consuming process when you want to eat a wide range of food!
Buy West Eat Best is a government funded food labelling program which makes my life easier by providing a way of clearly identifying Western Australian produce. In order to use the logo businesses must apply and need to meet certain criteria before being registered. Regular random checks are performed to ensure compliance at both the retail and the manufacturing level.
I consider myself a Perth girl and love our city in so many ways but I wasn’t actually born here. I was born in Manly and my moved to Adelaide in my childhood years. I went on to spend most of my teenage years in Adelaide before moving to the other side of Australia on my own at the impressionable age of seventeen. Whilst my loyalties will always lie with Perth, I cannot deny that Adelaide holds a very sweet place in my heart and returning feels like coming home despite leaving so many years ago. One of the big attractions to return to Adelaide for is my Mum. Mum and I have always been best friends and being physically separated by thousands of kilometres makes our times together even more precious. After letting all the madness of Christmas die down, the Boy and I made a weekender trip to see her for the first time since our wedding. Being a total foodie herself, Mum had planned a busy weekend of feasting starting off with a hearty breakfast at a gorgeous restaurant called Bar 9.
We really have to consider ourselves lucky living here in Perth. Not only do we have the Swan Valley, a fabulous wine region only half an hour’s drive from the CBD, but for those willing to do a weekender trip we also have Margaret River. In November every year this relaxed little town becomes a buzz with life for the three day food festival; Gourmet Escape. Last year the Boy and I attended in full feasting force visiting the Gourmet Village on both days in addition to attending a few fabulous satellite events. We ate uncontrollably all weekend long and our repeated episodes of over-indulgence stretched our stomachs to near-bursting capacity. After just a few hours of not eating, our saggy baggy internal gizzards would start to gurgle and unbelievably we would get hungry again. On our last night before returning to Perth, we rolled our giant sized bodies down to the main strip to find ourselves more food. Our noses lead us to Morries Anytime.
Some of my friends suggest that I eat out too much. While that may be true it does depend on what you use as your reference point. The fact that I have an ever-increasing back log of pending blog posts may give some weight to support this accusation. On my trip to Barcelona last year I travelled without my husband making it the first time we were separated since we started dating nearly sixteen years ago. It felt strange and empty without him but I was lucky enough to find myself a wonderful group of friends which became my buddies for the whole week I was away. Every night the five of us would journey out into Barcelona for a meal together and I was so appreciative of their lovely and welcoming friendship. We all are still in contact with each other and hope to meet together again sometime. On our first night out for dinner as a group I really wanted to try to score a table at Tickets but being such a famous venue they were booked out well in advance. Deb and Tyler, the married couple among us strongly recommended to return where they ate at the night before; Restaurant L’Amfora.
Some people shop until they drop. Me? I just eat until I drop. gluten free Barcelona
Surely, by far and by large the best part of travelling to another country is being able to taste their local cuisine. When the Boy and I travel together we will always share our dishes so that we can try as many different things as possible. Recently I travelled to Barcelona without my lovely husband to attend the International Society of Feline Medicine’s World Feline Veterinary Conference. This was a new experience travelling solo and it presented me with a problem; I no longer had a buddy to share food my food with. Now logically one would think that there is an easy solution to this problem. Just order less food. But no, this solution was never going to work as moderation has never been my forte. I take the concept of “all or nothing” very seriously.
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
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!
Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
Degustation is a French word which can be translated into meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods focusing on the senses using high culinary art”. I have always been a huge fan of tasting menus as they allow me to taste a myriad of different dishes and leave me so insanely full that I never feel like I missed out. This style of dining is one best done slowly with good company and conversation which makes me thankful that my dear husband loves “degos” as much as I do. As you can imagine, for my recent solo trip to Barcelona I became emotionally torn; do I have a degustation in a city known for its fabulous food ON MY OWN? Is that too weird? I had read great things about Michelin starred Restaurant Nectari where their Chef Jordi Esteve offers a gluten free tasting menu complete with matching wines. Nectari opened their doors nearly five years ago and since then they have worked toward earning a well-known reputation for their service and food leading to receiving their first Michelin Star in 2013.