It is no secret that this little blog has been on “sabbatical” and whilst I have continued to explore eating our city’s gluten free options, I haven’t had the gumption to write about it. Some may say this is a little selfish and I cannot deny I have been racked with guilt from neglecting this much loved creation. For those of you who know me, you will understand why. I have been somewhat preoccupied with the realisation of a long-term dream that is totally unrelated to food. I have pursued keenly for the past eight years of my life the ambition of opening the first cat-only hospital in Perth and finally this year after much hard work my dream has come true. Opening a hospital from scratch is no mean feat and consequently blogging had to take a back seat for fear of it becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Trust me, no one wants to read what I write when I’m bored, it’s total snoozeville.
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the day before our big opening and the Boy knew he had to do something to calm my rattling nerves. After heading into the hospital with me in the morning to put some final touches including hanging up the gorgeous cat art that I had bought over the years in my travels, we headed out to Jarrahdale to Millbrook Winery.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this winery, and within seconds of arriving I immediately felt my pulsing veins in my head relax, my breath deepen and my stress wash away. I was thankful that my obsession with organising had taken a back seat and that I had let the Boy choose our venue. We were warmly greeted and shown to a perfect table overlooking the water, with lots of beautiful natural light cascading onto us. After a run of stinking hot days in Perth we were blessed with a day of cool breezes and gentle sun.
Millbrook’s Valentine’s Day menu consisted of a three course menu with a glass of 2010 Blanc de Blanc sparkling for $99 per person. Whilst the Boy and I thought at first that there wouldn’t be enough food for our inflated appetites, I can guarantee the meal sizes are substantial. There were plenty of gluten free options and the kitchen and wait staff were very aware of avoiding cross contamination.
Staying true with it being a day to celebrate being a couple, we decided to order everything gluten free so we could share each other’s dishes. We even shared the matching wines as they were different for each dish. We have our cute moments and this was one of them. Our first dish of blood plums and duck hearts was so pretty it was a shame to deconstruct it to eat.
Utilising colourful seasonal vegetables and leaves from the vineyard’s own gardens, this dish was an abundance of sweet crunch and juicy heartiness, if you pardon the pun. I haven’t tried duck hearts before, and probably wouldn’t have ordered this dish if the Boy hadn’t wanted to. The hearts were a lot more gentle in flavour than I expected, and their texture was so soft and delicate.
Our second entrée also showcased some produce from the chef’s pride and joy country garden. Some flavourful preserved vegetables accompanied barbecued Fremantle octopus with house-made safflower mayonnaise. I am a bit particular about my octopus, if it is as tough as old boots I just can’t be bothered eating it. I figure there is no point eating food that uses more calories to eat it than it provides you. Suffice to say there was no food wastage with this dish and in fact when no one was looking the Boy would intermittently sweep his finger over the plate to get every last morsel of flavour before licking his finger clean. My mother would be horrified. I simply smiled.
For our two mains we shared the viognier braised rabbit risotto and the beef brisket. The risotto was creamy, with big chunks of tender local rabbit and topped with crispy pancetta and fine shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
Fears of being underfed quickly left us as we gazed across the full table packed with colourful greens, potatoes and our mains. The beef brisket was served with a bean salad, white anchovies and healthy dollop of mustard. I so rarely eat beef these days but again I was glad I followed the Boy’s wishes and ordered this dish. The meat was so lovingly prepared it fell apart with the most gentlest nudge of the fork.
As the Boy and I had our commonplace discussion of whether we would order cheese versus dessert for our final courses, we were given some fresh fruit as a simple and mouth watering palate cleanser. As I cannot tolerate watermelon due to the high fructose content, they were happy to offer me some beautiful grapes plucked from the vines.
We ended up ordering both cheese and dessert with the continuous plan of sharing each others dishes. The chef created a special gluten free dessert for us using beautiful, seasonal fresh and dried stone fruits with chocolate chunks and sorbet.
Our cheese course was just as decadent. The highlight of the plate was a round of vine-wrapped sheep cheese from Cambray Cheese. These local cheese makers are based in the south west in Nannup and make a selected range of artisans sheep cheese. I love the distinctive tang of cheese made with sheep milk, and it is lower in lactose meaning I have less of an aftermath!
A little heady and carefree from all the wine, I joined in with the Boy in a rare moment of mannerless enjoyment of food and simultaneously swept my own finger across the plate before licking my finger with a smirk on my face. If you can’t beat them, join them. After spending months and months of none stop talk about every tiny detail of the cat hospital, we both realised we had actually gone through the whole lunch without even mentioning it once! He had truly fulfilled my need to switch off and relax for just a short while. Or perhaps it was a need for us both! 😉
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery at her (and the Boy’s) own expense. Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends.
This year’s Gourmet Escape was the hottest on record with temperatures soaring to 35°C on the Sunday. Fortunately the heat had no effect on the crowd levels and by the late morning the Gourmet Village was teeming with life. I was lucky enough to score front row seats to the first show on the main stage; the WA Signature Dish Final 2015 Cook-off.
For those of you who haven’t been following my coverage of WA Signature Dish this year, it is an annual cooking competition for amateur chefs that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce.
Entrants must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions.
I returned in an official capacity for 2015 to support the Gascoyne region and was so happy to see Jerolina Rankin progress to become the regional finalist. I met the lovely Jerolina last year on our trip up to the Gascoyne for the semi-finals and her passion and love for the region is endless.
I was told by insider sources that the judge’s votes were a very close call with all dishes being of an excellent standard, successfully showcasing the wonderful produce of their respective regions.
Of course there can only ever be one winner and it was music to my ears to hear the announcement that the winner for the WA Signature Dish 2015 is Jerolina with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns. Woo hoo!! Congratulations Jerolina and the Gascoyne producers!
After the excitement of the cook off, we headed over to the Buy West Eat Best stall to try some of the dishes ourselves. Sadly Jerolina’s dish had already sold out so we didn’t get to try it. Instead we ordered the dishes from the Kimberley and blogger Matt Cook’s dish from Perth.
We enjoyed both of the dishes and appreciated how hard the judges must have found picking a winner.
Historically my approach to attending the Gourmet Village has been to methodically visit every stall holder due to my well-known affliction with FOMO. It would be torture to see someone’s photo later that night on Instagram of a dish I didn’t get to eat! 😮
But due to a recent heavy burden of work related stress I have been a bit off my game leaving me with minimal tolerance to stand in the direct sun. Consequently the Boy and I used a more targeted approach to a couple of gluten free friendly stalls individually taking turns to line up in the sun while the other reserved a patch of shade.
Both dishes at the Bib & Tucker stall were gluten free friendly and it was hard to pick a favourite as they were both prepared and presented well. The charcoal roasted Blackwood Valley lamb shoulder was melt-in-your-mouth tender and was served with a dollop of charred eggplant purée, a dukkah crisp and pomegranate seeds.
The other Bib & Tucker dish was a pair of raw tuna tostadas; diced tuna served on a crisp tortilla with fresh avocado, green apple, radish and lime.
At the Genuinely Southern Forest stall they were promoting all the wonderful produce of the region. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment that they didn’t participate in the WA Signature Dish competition this year as their region has so much to offer. The gluten free option on their menu was smooth avocado, lime and cream mousse topped with candied macadamia crumble and a coulis made from rustleberries, boysenberries and raspberries.
We made one more stop for a dish at Voyager Estate before heading upstairs to the air-conditioned Platinum Lounge. Their ocean trout tataki was heavenly, the fish was so silky and soft. It was served on a bed of Japanese mushrooms, pickled vegetables, edamame beans and miso soil.
I was close to overheating by this point, which is odd for me as I usually tolerate the heat well. I put it down to my recent feeling of burn out. I thanked our lucky stars I had purchased tickets to access the Audi Leeuwin Platinum Lounge. We both entered the air-conditioned bliss with a simultaneous sigh of bliss.
The Platinum Lounge costs $230 per person, and in addition to access into a cool sanctuary you have unlimited food provided in addition to two glasses of Leeuwin wine. The food was set out in various stations positioned around the upstairs venue, nearly all of which were totally gluten free. Of course the first place we hit up was the oyster bar. An endless serve of oysters, what more do I have to say? I think we nearly ate our tickets worth in oysters alone.
The paella was filled with seafood and had a pleasant hit of spice which of course the Boy wasn’t too pleased about. He has delicate taste buds. I had cooled down under the blasting air con and was more than happy to polish off his spicy serve for him.
The charcuterie was also entirely gluten free and the chef had gluten free crackers on offer however the crackers were placed on the bread platter and thus likely to be contaminated with bread crumbs.
The cheese platter station was much savvier and the waiter kept the normal crackers and gluten free ones separate from each other. Seeing as I had already blown my dairy allowance out for the weekend I decided to push the boat out and share a serve of each with the Boy. There were four cheeses offered; Tarago River Jensen’s Red, a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Victoria; Cantal Entre-Deux, an aged French cheese made from raw cow’s milk; Queso de Murcia Al Vino, a semi-hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some Stilton, a classic blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, England.
By this point we were well and truly stuffed. We sat back contentedly and contemplated the long drive home as the chef lit up a BBQ and started cooked seafood. And yes, it was all gluten free. I pondered for a millisecond whether we fit any more food in before lining up for more food with my new found fellow Coeliac from Lunch with my bestie blog.
I am so pleased that the WA Signature Dish competition has progressed to making it to the main stage at such a key foodie event. We are blessed to live in a State with such varied climates across the regions giving us an abundance of fresh produce that must leave other States envious. Once again I wish a massive congratulations to Jerolina and Chef Pete Manifis for winning and look forward to covering the competition again next year.
Chompchomp was the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish. She paid for access into the Audi Platinum Lounge in full.
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
This year I return to join the team of bloggers and follow the journey of the WA Signature Dish Competition 2015. Many of you will remember my comprehensive coverage of last year’s competition which included a trip up to the stunning Gascoyne region where I went on my own paddock to plate experience meeting the local farmers and producers in person. I visited a number of banana plantations, ate chocolate pudding fruit straight from the tree and even got to climb on board a crabbing boat.
The WA Signature Dish is an annual cooking competition that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce. The competition is open to amateur cooks who must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions. Two contestants from each region will be chosen to compete in the Semi Final cook-off event on the 14 October in Perth.
This year Peter Manifis will join us again as the mentor chef for the Gascoyne region. Peter grew up on WA’s Pilbara coast and being the son of a commercial fisherman, he developed a passion for our State’s abundant seafood from a very young age. By the time Peter was ten years old he had already decided that he was going to be a chef. He trained at the famous Loose Box under French Master Chef Alain Farbregues and is now a partner in the successful South Perth restaurant InContro. Read my interview with Peter last year and see some of his mouth-watering creations at InContro restaurant.
The Hero Ingredients that the contestants must use from the Gascoyne Region this year are:
• Wild Shark Bay Prawns (Northern Star Ocean Products)
• Carnarvon grown tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and chilli (Loveapple)
• Shark Bay Mullet, Shark Bay Scallops, Pink Snapper and Shark Bay Whiting (recommended by the WA Fishing Industry Council)
Once the four regional Semi Final winners are selected, they will each then work with their mentor chef for their chosen region to prepare them for the Grand Finale which will be held at Margaret River Gourmet Escape on the 22 November. The judging panel for the Grand Finale will consist of Guillaume Brahimi (Bistro Guillaume), Shane Osborn (from Michelin starred St Betty’s restaurant in Hong Kong) and a third high profile chef who is yet to be named.
The winner of the WA Signature Dish Competition 2015 will receive two days mentoring with Guillaume Brahimi at Bistro Guillame in Crown Perth, plus a trip for two to a luxurious remote Western Australian location for a wine and dine experience and the opportunity to meet some of WA’s most respected chefs and industry figures along the way.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for the 2015 WA Signature Dish Competition. The competition is organised by Buy West Eat Best, a food labelling program that’s all about supporting the local food industry in Western Australia. Buy West Eat Best aims to grow the value and consumption of local WA produced food. Buy West East Best provides consumers and the local food industry with a food-specific brand to clearly show Western Australian grown, farmed, fished and produced food.
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
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
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
It was a stormy night in the South-west, sadly not the weather I would have liked for our whirlwind weekender with the Boy, Mum and her other half. We were staying in a chalet about twenty minutes south of Dunsborough so in order to make our driving through the rain easier, I punched our destination into my Tomtom and sat back to let it do the hard work for me. This turned out to be a tremendous mistake and over forty-five minutes later we arrived at Piari & Co with everyone tired and grumpy with me at my error.
Starting a meal in a bad mood is never a good idea and to further add to the situation the restaurant was completely packed and full of noisy, rather drunk customers. One customer in particular had a laugh that resembled the whoop of a baboon. The Boy detests noisy venues, I refer to this as one of his Grandpa habits. Additionally, my stepdad wears a hearing aid in one ear which in these sort of situations relays deafening feedback down into his ear making listening to conversation impossible. I took the liberty of ordering some starters while they sat in silence reading over the menus.
The lighting was romantically dim as is often the way which increased the pressure of the evening for me as photography is very challenging in such environments. I tried to get photos as quickly as possible so we could start to eat and lighten up. One of the specials of the day were freshly shucked oysters topped with blood orange granita. Slightly sweet and slightly tangy, we slurped these up quickly.
I also ordered the seared Esperance scallops. Just seeing the name Esperance on paper brings a warm glow to my heart as this is where my darling Bestie lives. (***I miss you!***) Whilst small in size, these little morsels were seared to golden brown and served with celeriac remoulade, compressed nashi and crispy shreds of duck meat. I haven’t tried duck with scallops before and found with the sweetness of the pear it balanced well.
Mum is a pork lover and despite her claims of not wanting to eat too much so early in our feasting weekend, she still was brave enough to take on the pork main course. The slow cooked slab of free range Big Red pork belly was slightly over cooked making it a little too dry for her liking. She much preferred the accompanying pulled pork shoulder salad and found the meat in this to be moist and succulent.
I wanted to pace myself for the weekend ahead of us too and ordered the fish of the day for a lighter, healthy meal. The fish was a thick fillet of Mulloway. This is in my humble opinion is one of the finest tasting fish in Australia. The fish was served on a bed of smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée and topped with garden fresh charred corn and peas.
The Boy was having one of his unpredictable meat eating moments and ordered the grass-fed beef cheek. Like most of the ingredients used at Piari & Co, his beef was locally sourced from the South West and slow cooked to the point of meltable soft tenderness.
I had seen pictures of Piari & Co desserts on Instagram and wanted to be able to partake but after having eaten all day there was not a lot of room left. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way so the four of us ordered a single serve of the Bombe Alaska to share, complete with four spoons.
Under the spikey gooey dome of meringue was a chewy, syrupy slice of gluten free pistachio cake. Drizzles of tangy passionfruit coulis lifted the near overpowering sweetness making this a delectable choice. With the crafty work of four eager spoons flashing about quickly, the Bombe Alaska disappeared in a blink of a second.
It seemed that I was the only one at the table not bothered by the noise and sadly the high pitched cackles and racket tainted the experience somewhat for my loved ones. I am a person who loves the hustle and bustle of activity and noise makes me feel alive. Take the drunken whoops of the women at the table next to us out of the equation and I’m certain that we all would have had a fabulous evening. I guess this is a good reason to return…..hopefully not again on the same day as those locals!Disclaimer: Chompchomp would like to disclose that on certain occasions when dining out she may in fact be just like one of those noisy customers as unfortunately she was born without any form of voice volume control. For neighbouring customers on these evenings she is honestly apologetic however cannot promise it won’t happen again. Piari & Co 5/54 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9756 7977 | www.piariandco.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
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.
Having been together for nearly seventeen years, the Boy and I know each other too well and he can sniff out the beginnings of me getting close to my breaking point from miles out. As I reached the end of working nine consecutive long days he suggested we take time out from our weekend chores and plan a weekend long lunch.
Normally I am the one that will select where we eat out due to the ever hungry thirst for content this blog can create. Conversely, the Boy is not interested in hitting the hot spots but would rather take any opportunity for a drive into the countryside. He proposed we head back to the Bickley Valley so I promptly booked us a table at the Vineyard Kitchen located at Brookside Winery.
I recall visiting this beautiful winery during the Bickley Valley Harvest Festival however on that day they were fully booked and so we only got to taste and purchase their wines. Over a year had passed and I was very keen to return.
We started off at the cellar door where we were warmly greeted by the owners Peter and Fay Fels. Their smiles were so infectious that before we knew it we were working our way through tasting all of their wines. Our favourites were the 2012 Methode Champenoise and the 2012 ‘One Acre Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are a number of gluten free and vegetarian options on the restaurant menu with a strong focus on local produce some of which is grown on their property themselves. I started with the roast beetroot and goats cheese brulée.
A whole roasted beetroot had been cored in the centre, filled with goats cheese and served warm. There was a thin layer of crackable toffee over the top but it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. It was an interesting dish and totally worked as a creative but hearty vegetarian entrée.
The Boy ordered the pan-fried sardines which were crumbed and served with a light salad. A random choice for him as although I love sardines, I cannot say I ever would have considered him to be a fan. Regardless of this he still enjoyed them but admitted it wasn’t really his thing.
For my main dish I ordered the twice cooked duck leg. The duck meat slithered of the bone without any encouragement and was served on a generous bed of creamy porcini and mascarpone risotto. The skin had a thin crispiness to it such that I temporarily cast away all my recent concerns about weight gain and ate the lot. You only live once right?
On our recent trip to Esperance the Boy fell in love with things wrapped in filo, sampling baked Camembert cheese and a fish and prawn curry both wrapped in this flaky treat. Upon seeing the slow cooked lamb shoulder parcel on the menu he caved into a rare moment of meat eating.
Unlike me, the Boy is a man of few words, and my best way at measuring a dish’s awesomeness factor is by the amount of head nods and moans. The lamb shoulder scored high in both of these important measurements!
As we ordered dessert I was told by our jovial waiter that the gluten free mixed berry clafoutis would be a twenty minute wait. This was actually a small blessing in disguise as I was nearly bursting at the seams with all the food we had eaten so far.
Clafoutis is one of those French desserts that makes me feel a little nostalgic for my ancestry and upbringing. Traditionally made with cherries, this dish works well with any slightly zingy, juicy fruit.
The Vineyard Kitchen’s clafoutis was worth the wait. The balance of tart and sweet flavours was executed perfectly with plump berries embedded in the thick, slightly wobbly baked almond batter. I get so excited when my gluten free dessert is interesting!
The Boy ordered the dark chocolate peanut butter pie with vanilla ice cream, presumably in part because it came with ice cream. Whilst the two of us have an enormous amount of compatibilities, one of our few differences is our palate for desserts. He can really take or leave them and will always be satisfied with a simple bowl of ice cream.
Having wanted to visit the Vineyard Kitchen for such a long time there was a risk that it wouldn’t live up to the hype I created in my mind. But despite the long wait to return back for lunch, it was impossible not to fall in love with this place. The quaint gardens, the warm welcome at the cellar door, the prompt and relaxed service and most importantly the award-winning wines accompanied with sumptuous food were all key ingredients in teleporting me from a state of frazzled burn out to total relaxation.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of her husband, otherwise know as “The Boy” and was lucky enough to also score a case of wine from him to continue to drink once she arrived home. Vineyard Kitchen 5 Loaring Road, Bickley WA 6076 | (08) 6162 2070 | www.thevineyardkitchen.net.au
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.
Twelve months ago Kate returned to her home-town of Esperance to complete her yoga teacher training with the aim to open her own yoga studio specialising in kid’s yoga. I envisaged this to be a slow process and was so surprised and excited to hear that less than a year after she moved away her studio was ready to be opened. I am so proud of her determination to make this long-term dream a reality and upon hearing the brilliant news I promptly booked some last minute flights to zip down and spend the weekend with her.
We booked accommodation at the Esperance Island View apartments which is located on the Esplanade and is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Our two bedroom apartment had two storeys with a large kitchen and living area, and most importantly excellent heating. This is something I have learnt to appreciate after our recent stay in Pemberton for Truffle Kerfuffle at an unnamed chalet location that had no heating other than a pot belly stove!
For our first night together we walked down to the Pier Hotel, a massive pub with separate bistro and bar areas, a cocktail lounge and the only night club in town. We sat down in the toasty bistro area by the open fire and made ourselves quite cosy.
The bistro menu has gluten free items clearly marked on the menu and most of the salad bar was also gluten free. Our waitress was kind enough to double check everything for me which was a thoughtful gesture. We each started off with a serve of drunken oysters. Served three ways, the oysters were surprisingly fresh and salty.
My favourite oyster of the three was the tequila shot which was served with a generous splash of tomato juice. The Jack Daniels Kilpatrick oyster was everyone’s least favourite. I found the bacon to be dry and flavourless with a barely discernible taste of bourbon. Not such a bad thing as I don’t particularly like bourbon.
My choice for main course was the Thai style barramundi, a grilled barra fillet cooked in curry sauce with basil, chilli and coconut cream. It is normally served with a pistachio and capsicum couscous but the gluten free option offers chips or mash as a replacement. Whilst it was quite an unsightly dish, the fish was cooked beautifully and the curry sauce was not overpowering. It would have been better paired with some steamed rice instead of mash.
With a day and a half to explore, we saw only a brief snippet of Esperance and its surrounds yet what I did see left me blown away by this remote town’s rugged beauty. Imagine long stretches of beaches with the whitest sand in Australia where the water is so vividly blue it almost doesn’t look real. It was breathtaking. One of the most special moments we shared was seeing a mother whale and her calf in the bay at Hellfire beach. Every time a tail fin would gracefully plunge out of the water both of us couldn’t hold back emitting loud sighs of amazement. I regretted not bringing my zoom lens with me!
Being in the middle of winter, Esperance’s weather can be unpredictable and can turn from clear blue skies to thundering storms quicker than I expected. After walking the Rotary Lookout circuit walk on Wireless Hill, we stopped to catch our breath in a little gazebo and watched a storm coming in over the coast for just long enough to avoid getting wet. Once the rain hit, we journeyed back into town for an afternoon snack at Taylors Beach café before popping into see her parents.
Taylors Beach café is situated overlooking the Bay of Isles and has been a local icon for many years. They have live music on Sunday afternoons and are open seven days. We only wanted a light snack to go with our drinks as we were heading out for dinner later that evening.
We started off with some French bubbles which is something of a tradition for the two of us. We have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money that we don’t really have on bottles of exquisite French champagne so I figured we needed to keep on with our tradition to some degree; even if Grandin isn’t strictly Champagne it is French! 😉
Taylors have a small bites menu however unfortunately I was sternly informed that there was only one dish that could be served gluten free; the grilled scallops. There were six scallops served in the shell lightly grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
I made the error of eating some of the garnish in the middle of the dish which left a mouldy flavour in my mouth, ruining any further enjoyment of the scallops. The Boy and Kate took heed and avoided eating any greens meaning their scallop experience was much more enjoyable.
Fuelled with the warmth of a round of drinks, we visited her parents for a brief lesson on clipping cat’s claws. Betty Lois and Doris are ex-farm cats who are affectionately known collectively as The Girls. They were on their best behaviour which made for short work of my vet consult allowing us to celebrate with another round of drinks before heading out on the town to the Loose Goose for dinner.
The Loose Goose is one of the fine dining options in town and offers set dinner prices of $45.50 for one course, $57.50 for two courses and $67.50 for three courses. This price includes complimentary herb or garlic bread and a side salad or vegetables with the main meals. They did not have any gluten free bread on offer.
In our usual celebratory mode, we all chose to enjoy three courses. It is not often that we get to dine out together and the logical approach was to make the most of it. The Boy’s starter was a thick slab of Camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown. A rather inelegant blob of mild chilli plum sauce accompanied the cheese adding a touch of fruity sweetness. This wasn’t a type of dish I ever expected him to order, in fact I cannot recall the last time I saw him order ANYTHING in puff pastry. However if his moans of delight were anything to go by, I can see he will likely order this again given the chance!
Kate ordered the sweet potato salad served warm with marinated mushrooms, French cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas. It was a vegetarian’s feast and I couldn’t help myself from reaching across and nabbing a slice of soft creamy sweet potato.
I ordered the half dozen fresh natural oysters which I was hoping were obtained locally from WA but unfortunately I was told they were imported from South Australia. Regardless of the greater distance they travelled to reach my plate each oyster gave me a mouthful of fresh seawater without any unpleasant fishy after-taste.
The Boy was on a roll with this pastry fetish as his main course was also wrapped in puff pastry. His dish was titled “real barramundi” and consisted of a thick fillet of barramundi cooked with prawns and garlic butter and then wrapped in pastry.
His fish came with a potato gallete and more lashings of creamy garlic sauce. No vampires came near us that night!
Kate wasn’t too impressed with the main dish choices as she is not really much of a meat eater so she requested for the chilli squid entrée to be served as a main size. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige. Her chilli squid was served in a Greek style cooked with tomato, capsicum and a hint of chilli. It was topped with some crumbled feta and black olives. She paired it with brilliant emerald green choc-mint cocktail made with Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Midori. We downed a few of those together that night!
I ordered the special of the day; the King Snapper Tom Yum. Having travelled a reasonable amount in Thailand, this clear, sweet and sour soup is one of my Thai favourites and I was counting on flashbacks of our time in the tropical sunshine. I certainly wasn’t expecting the dish I received which was more like a red fish curry than a Tom Yum. The sauce was a more modern interpretation made using coconut cream and was served with rice, like a curry. After my initial surprise, I actually didn’t mind it at all. For a curry, it was richly flavoured with all the layering of tastes that a well-made Thai dish should have. The fish was softly cooked and flaked apart gracefully and I was close to licking the bowl clean by the end.
As we arrived at dessert time, I was grateful for having a second stomach as I was totally stuffed. Whenever the three of us are out together, Kate and I will often try and guess what the Boy will order. He will then try to meet our suggestions with an air of total mystery and nonchalance. We are renowned for usually getting it right and simultaneously chanted that he would choose the Death by Chocolate. After a few minutes of playing coy and pretending we were completely wrong our waitress came up to take our order and lo and behold; he orders the Death by Chocolate. It was a rich doorstop-sized block of chocolate cake served warm and drizzled with oozing chocolicious ganache.
Both of us girls ordered the dessert special; the Loose Goose chocolate pot. Despite asking for gluten free, mine was initially served with some chocolate biscuit crumbled on top. Thankfully the Boy pointed this out to me before I had finished taking my photos and I avoided getting gluten poisoning.
Our waitress was extremely apologetic and promptly swapped it over for me. The chocolate pot was a huge serve of which neither of us needed to finish it all. Of course we both did polish off the lot which made our dancing attempts later on at the Pier nightclub not exactly easy!
The following morning we gathered ourselves together for a refreshing coastal walk. There is a walking track along most of the town’s coastline with gentle undulating hills and some of the most breathtaking views of the beaches. If I hadn’t binged so much the night before it would have made a fabulous running track to burn off those excess calories.
Sadly our weekend had nearly drawn to an end so before we headed back to the airport, Kate took us for a drive to Monjingup Lake Nature Reserve. She is a master at pleasing everyone and given I had already had a fulfilling foodie weekend, she wanted to take us somewhere that she knew the Boy would love.
The reserve has a well maintained boardwalk which takes you right out onto the lake giving gorgeous views of the reflections of the trees on the water.
There was an abundance of bird life that the Boy spotted with great ease; wildlife watching is something of a talent of his and he takes great pleasure in being the first to spot any signs of life. Once again I regretted not travelling with the appropriate camera lens!
While the Boy wandered off ahead in search of birds and frogs, my Bestie and I took our time to treasure our last hour together.
Whilst it had been a whirlwind trip this is something the two of us have grown accustomed to over the years. Previously we would both end up being shattered by the end of our rushed catch up due to our desperate attempts at making the most of our time by indulging in all the excesses.
Nearly decades later, our best-friendship has reached a point where we know we have each other for support no matter where we live and what we are doing. Our times together are becoming much more cherished and the influence of her yoga practice on living a healthy life is having a positive impact on both of us. It is a beautiful point in our lives to be.
Despite being all “zen” about my best friend living so far away, as I watched her leave us at the Esperance airport, I shed more than just a few tears. 😥To the bestest bestie; we had such a fabulous weekend with you in your hometown of Esperance. Let’s hope the time until we meet again is short. Whaa-toot!
Chompchomp travelled to Esperance on her own budget purely just to be with her bestie. She is confident that no one in town knew of her blog’s existence and was happy to be completely incognito. Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Esperance Western Australia 6450 | (08) 9071 1777 | www.pierhotelesperance.net.au www.taylorsbeachcafe.com.au loosegooseesperance.com.au
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.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
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.
The Southern Forests region in Western Australia has proven to be the prime location to grow this “black gold” with 80% of the Southern hemisphere’s black truffle coming from this small but highly productive region. To celebrate the truffle season each year, there is a three day truffle festival held called Truffle Kerfuffle which is dedicated to showcasing the abundance of produce from the Southern Forests region with the black truffle being on centre stage.
This year I journeyed down to Manjimup for the full weekend to get the entire truffle experience. Our first evening celebrations kicked off with the sell-out Hunt and Harvest dinner. This was a luxurious affair of six courses and matched wines with every dish enhanced extravagantly with lavish servings of fresh, aromatic truffle. At each table setting we were even given a 20 gram fresh truffle to take home.
Whilst the truffle remained the shining star of the show, each course also utilised some of the best produce this region has to offer including marron, rainbow trout and crunchy sweet apples.
It was hard to pick a highlight for the evening but for me it was Philipe Mouchel’s Manjimup Hampshire Grass fed beef. The beef was prepared two ways; a tender soft roasted strip loin with rich, braised short ribs. It was served on a bed of Southern Forest celeriac purée with a red wine sauce and of course shavings of black truffle.
The cheese course was spectacular in appearance with each platter topped with giant sized shards of gluten free whey lavosh. Hidden under the lavosh sat rolls of Bannister Downs curd which had been delicately wrapped in paper thin slices of truffle. It was a night of excess and was well worth the expense.
The next day I woke up nursing a sizey hangover but the anticipation of more truffle feasting to come it made things seem a lot easier to get going. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on anything so we headed back to Fonty’s Pool early in the day for the festival part of the weekend celebrations. We started with a naughty breakfast of truffled popcorn from the Taste of Balingup stall.
Freshly popped corn tossed in truffle butter and topped with grated truffle? Oh my! It was out of this world. I have to confess to you that with the Boy’s help I may have eaten at least half a dozen serves over the course of the weekend. And I could have easily eaten more.
The Farmer’s market was filled with a number of stalls selling produce from the Southern Forest region with a strong focus on truffle. There were a great variety of gourmet hot food stalls too which led me to the compulsion to try as much dishes as I humanly could. Thankfully most of the stalls had a gluten free option so I didn’t miss out on much!
Whilst the truffle popcorn was obviously my favourite, some other addictive bites included the marron and truffle stuffed potatoes, Kent Street Deli’s fall apart beef cheeks with truffle mash and Pata Negra’s lusciously smooth pate. I was impressed that David Coomer’s wife was kind enough to bring gluten free crackers to the festival to accompany the pate for those Coeliacs in need!
Running at half hour intervals throughout the two days were truffle hunts held on one of the surrounding truffle farms. The hunt is conducted a short bus ride away from the festival and it is the best way to learn more about this interesting industry.
As black truffles grow underground they are not that easy to find. In Manjimup, truffle farmers spend time training their dogs to be able to sniff out the treasure without damaging it. We got to meet Latte the truffle dog, a very placid and patient boy who liked to live his life in the slow lane.
Latte would carefully walk under the oak trees to smell where the truffles lay and when he found one he would gently paw at the ground once or twice then look expectantly at his owner for a treat. After half an hour or so, he had helped his owner find a small bag full of walnut sized truffles. An impressive haul when you consider they sell on the retail market for over $2000.
Whilst the main group were busy watch Latte at work, I noticed the Boy was lingering back from the crowd looking somewhat suspicious. As I glanced back to see what he was up to I saw him flick a clod of moss off the ground with his foot and his face lit up with surprise.
I toddled over to see what he found and saw an enormous black shadow laying underneath the red dirt and bright green moss. It was a giant sized truffle that outsized all of the truffle dog’s truffles by far! Looks like the Boy has found his new calling. My truffle snuffling husband. I married well. As I sadly handed over the weighty specimen to its rightful owner I secretly hoped he would exchange one of the smaller golf ball sized truffles as payment but alas all he offered was one of Latte’s liver treats. Erm, no thankyou!
After our truffle hunt we met up with my dear friend Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse for a Masterclass with Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse and Paul Wyman from Colonial Brewery. They teamed together to show us that food and drink matching isn’t just for wine but can easily be done with craft beers.
Unfortunately for me, Colonial cannot produce any gluten free beers but Hadleigh was thoughtful enough to source some locally produced gluten beers for me from Billabong Brewery. It was a joy to watch two masters at their craft talk so passionately about their industries and it reminded me that it is important to always follow your dream.
Hadleigh created a two course journey matched with three rounds of Colonial beers. Whilst I didn’t get to try Colonial brew, the Boy is quite the beer expert and was happy to inform me they got his fussy tick of approval. He enjoyed their complexity in flavour and was inspired to make sure we visit their brewery next time we are in Margaret River.
For our third and final festival day, I had booked tickets for the Southern Forests Farmers Long Table lunch. This was a much more casual affair than the higher profile Hunt and Harvest dinner which made a nice contrast in experiences.
Our table was adorned with an abundance of locally sourced fresh produce including potatoes, kale and silver beet. The lunch pulled on the talents of three amazing WA chefs; Kiren Mainwaring from Co-op Dining, Joel Valvasori from Lalla Rookh and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio.
Every ingredient used in the three course lunch excluding staples such as sugar, flour and salt were sourced from the Southern Forest region. Kiren’s dish included one of his signature elements; a slow cooked egg. This was paired with a savoury meringue, cauliflower puree, shaved cauliflower and of course, fresh truffle. It was a wondrous play on textures with a layer of subtle sweetness coming from the gelatinous yolk and the air-puff crisp meringue.
There was a brief interlude before main course for local potato growers Carlo and Bob Pessotto to talk to us about the diverse range of potatoes available in Australia. We were served two potatoes; a Kipfler and a Laura. They were roasted and served with a spoonful of molten butter drizzled on top. They wanted to use this as a way to highlight that there can be such a range in flavour and texture between the different potato varieties and encouraged us to try experimenting with eating more types.
Joel’s dish of ricotta gnocchi, lamb and mushroom ragu and fresh truffle effectively silenced the table for minutes as everyone was too busy tucking into its deliciousness. It was just what the cold winter weather commanded and was the perfect way to warm our heart and soul.
He adapted my dish to be gluten free by replacing the gnocchi with thick, creamy polenta. The polenta partially soaked up all the richly flavoured juices from the ragu meaning there was no missing out for this gluten free girl.
Sophie’s dessert utilised the vibrant coloured local Pink Lady apples topping a hazelnut and frangipani tart on a short crust pastry with clotted cream and shavings of truffle.
My gluten free version omitted the pastry and my apple doubled in sized in comparison to everyone else’s. Many of you know that apples are not ideal for a fructose malabsorber however I was prepared to tough it out after slugging some glucose tablets down my throat. Glucose can help with absorption of fructose to an extent. If only there was a pill to reverse the effect of eating gluten how much easier would life be? As the lunch came to a close, we were offered to help ourselves to the produce on the table. I plopped a number of those tasty local potatoes in our bag with the plans to devour them for dinner at our chalet that evening.
Our basic chalet back in Pemberton didn’t have an oven in its kitchen but it did have a pot belly stove. Upon our return from the festival that afternoon, it didn’t take the Boy long to get the fire roaring. I smothered the potatoes in some truffle butter that we bought earlier that day, wrapped them in foil and poked them deep into the hot coals.
What was I saying about the simple things in life? After a weekend of eating decadently with lunches and dinners prepared by famous chefs, it was such pleasure going back to basics. Once our hot potatoes were cooked, I added more spoonfuls of truffle butter and cheekily grated fresh truffle on top. That was our dinner for the evening. It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.Truffle Kerfuffle truffle festival 2014 prices: General entry Weekend Pass – Adult $30, Child $15 Hunt & Harvest Dinner $220 including wine Truffle Hunt $40 Masterclasses ranged from $65-145. My Masterclass cost $85 Farmers Long Table Lunch $125 In addition to all her dietary issues, Chompchomp also suffers from a serious condition called FOMO, or Fear-of-missing-out. Consequently she had no desire to wait and see what events she may or may not receive invitations to via her blog and promptly booked her TK weekend for full price on the first day the tickets were released. And it was worth every cent. Trustee Bar InContro Grossi Restaurants Millbrook Winery Taste of Balingup Kent Street Deli Pata Negra Restaurant Amuse Co-op Dining Lalla Rookh
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 giving it more thought I changed my mind and decided I wanted to experience more of the Coral Coast further north from Carnarvon on the same holiday. This would add even more hours onto our already long drive. So instead to us save time, we chose to fly into Exmouth with Qantas airlines, hire a car and drive direct from Learmonth Airport. The flight is about two hours and then the drive from Exmouth to Carnarvon is around four hours depending on the weather conditions.
I found driving around Carnarvon and through the Outback onto Exmouth was a type of road trip unlike anything I have previous experienced. The roads are much more remote than any city slicker like me could have even imagined. Roadside stops are few and few between with very little to offer the gluten free traveller. I arrived fully prepared with roads snacks packed in my suitcase and I was able to restock my supplies at the local Woolworths in Carnarvon town where they had a full range of gluten free breads, crackers, muffins and other snacks.
Outback driving is something you need some preparation for. My ten best tips for beginners are:• Check the road and weather conditions before you leave: We encountered some pretty crazy weather and had to change our routes due to road closures on a number of occasions. BOM gives up to date reports. Be sure to check their website daily. • Pack plenty of water. Remember there are minimal service stations once you get out of Carnarvon Town and onto the highway and it can get pretty hot out there! • Stock up on gluten free snacks before you set out. Those few and far between service stations have slim pickings for us gluten free peeps. Come prepared. • Tell someone your plans before you go • Plan your refuelling stops • Obtain a current and accurate map • Use a road worth vehicle ideally a 4WD • Ensure to organise your music devices with good tunes, a charger and a way to play it through your hire car radio. • Watch out for wildlife and livestock on the road. You will be surprised at how much wayward animals are out there. • Don’t drive after dark
We stayed at the Best Western Hospitality Inn where we found the rooms to be simple but clean and are conveniently located within walking distance to the town centre and the picturesque fascine. There are a number of other accommodation options including pubs, motels, backpacker’s lodges and caravan parks. There are currently no luxury styled hotels or chalets.
Where to eat:
My first recommendation for any foodie, whether you are gluten free or not is to get yourself a copy of the Gascoyne Food Trail map and hit the road for your own paddock to plate experience. You will find all sorts of naturally gluten free things to devour including fresh prawns, frozen chocolate pudding fruit and the sweetest bananas you have ever tasted.
For a more traditional feast dining in you need to bear in mind that a lot of the restaurants are closed from Sunday through to Tuesday and some of the tourist cafés are only open seasonally. For two nights of our stay we ate at the Sails Restaurant situated at our hotel because nowhere else was open. Whilst their menu is not marked with gluten free options, the chef was very obliging and could adapt most of the meals for me. We really enjoyed their ginger scallop entrée especially as it came with a substantial number of scallops to share.
It seemed that some other local eateries have yet to buy into the concept of utilising all the amazing fresh local produce available at their doorstep. After speaking with a number of locals I get the feeling this is soon about to change.
One place that has embraced using local produce was the Gascoyne Hotel. Their menu was clearly marked with gluten free options and even had a number of gluten free desserts on offer including cheesecakes, puddings and tiramisu. Whilst their creamy garlic prawns weren’t exactly cheap for an entrée size, they were worth every cent.
Another gluten free item on the Gascoyne’s menu was the salt and pepper calamari. This wasn’t quite the dish we were expecting with only a few pieces of calamari served underneath a mound of crispy rice noodles and generous lashings of a honey, sesame and soy dressing. As odd as this dish looked, the flavours did work well together.
The Boy also ordered himself the local snapper with chips and salad but alas this wasn’t marked gluten free on the menu. I enquired if this could be done gluten free however was informed that I could only have the dishes already marked gluten free on the menu. If you are craving gluten free fish and chips, I managed to find some at the Harbourside Café. They will charge a reasonable amount more for local fish than the alternative option of imported fish but all their staff were aware of how to avoid gluten contamination and prepared a fresh batch of chips in clean oil just for us.
A final recommendation is to head over to “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
The newly opened One Mile Restaurant located in the Centre next to the jetty and has a young and ambitious chef who informed me will be offering gluten free options on her menu. The Centre provides fabulous views of the jetty and looks out over the water making it the perfect spot to stop for a meal.
Coming up next in my Gascoyne series will take you to the stunning beach-side town of Exmouth where we stayed at the luxurious Ningaloo Novotel Resort and nearly became trapped there due to widespread flooding!Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au/ Water’s Edge Restaurant at the Gascoyne Hotel 121-125 Olivia Terrace, South Carnarvon WA 6701| (08) 9941 1181 | www.gascoynehotel.com.au Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook
One Mile Restaurant at the Interpretive Centre | Heritage Precinct Annear Place, Babbage Island, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 3423 | http://www.carnarvonheritage.com.au/ The Precinct is open daily from 9 am-5 pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
Over recent weeks I have been providing you with insider coverage of the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best; a government initiative to help promote eating locally grown and made produce. I was appointed as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and travelled up to Carnarvon to attend the regional final.
The three other participating regions were Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests and the Great Southern. Each region’s finalist received one-on-one mentoring by their delegated chef to help prepare them for the Grand Finale held at the Perth Cultural Centre on WA Day. On the big day, the Cultural Centre was alive with activity with much to see and do for people of all ages.
The WA Day event was a free event and the Buy West Eat Best tent was packed full of stalls offering tastings of all sorts of local deliciousnesses including banana smoothies, gelato, oils, condiments and best of all, gluten free lupin flour chocolate cake. I was joined by two of my dear friends Foodie Cravings and Perth Munchkin who were also attending as official bloggers representing Perth and the Great Southern.
Each contestant had ninety minutes to prepare their dish from scratch using a variety of ingredients sourced from their region. Rhiannon Birch was competing for the Perth and Surrounds region and her dish was Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours. Much to my approval her dish is entirely gluten free.
Clare King’s dish came from the Great Southern region titled “A Celebration of Beef in Thai style” and was made using a luscious Butterfield beef fillet topped with pearls of Pemberton Finger Limes.
Many of you have already been following on the blog the story of Paul Kelly, the contestant for the Gascoyne region with his Gascoyne tasting plate. This colourful plate included Shark Bay wild King prawns with salsa verde, plantation vegetable gazpacho with Abacus crab sticks, Shark Bay snapper ceviche and some simple pan-fried Shark Bay Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled Gascoyne vegetables.
Competing for the Southern Forests region, the softly spoken Alana Starkie prepared some stunning fresh Southern Forest marron with a Pink Lady apple, avocado and lime salsa. To make the competition even more challenging, throughout the entire cook off the four contestants were individually interviewed by both their chef and the hosts Anna Gare and Don Hancey. I was surprised how well they all kept their cool under pressure and kept their focus on cooking!
The final decision for the winning dish was made by the panel of high profile judges; Guillaume Brahimi, Ralf Vogt and Rob Broadfield. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the packed marquee as each judge carefully tasted the four dishes.
Whilst the quality and standard of each dish was high, there can only ever be one winner and this year the winner was Rhiannon Birch for her Perth dish of Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours.
For the recipes for all the contestants dishes head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.
The Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Finale was a free event held on the 2nd of June 2014 at the Perth Cultural Centre. I would like to thank buy West Eat Best and all the team at Clarity Communications for allowing me to be part of this fabulous WA Signature Dish experience. Also thanks to Paul Kelly and Chef Peter Manifis for putting in such an incredible effort for the Gascoyne region. Fingers crossed for a win next year!
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.
Having heard great things about Carnarvon’s fresh seafood it was all I was in the mood for. And the best way to start a seafood feast is with oysters. Now I realise the hot climate of Carnarvon excludes it from farming oysters locally this meant the oysters on Sail’s menu would undoubtedly be imported. However, when I get the fanciful idea of eating oysters I just will not stop until I am satisfied. These giant sized babies came from Frankland Bay in South Australia and were plump, creamy and surprisingly fresh. We enjoyed them served natural with a squeeze of cut lemon.
Before ordering anything else the chef kindly came out to speak with me about suitable gluten free options from his menu. I always appreciate this level of concern as it illustrates to me that they will ensure to take care when preparing my food. Our first dish was a seared prawn salad using local prawns tossed through a mighty sized salad of julienned bacon, roasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and baby spinach leaves. It was finished with a lemon, chilli and coriander dressing. The bacon was an odd addition and one we didn’t expect however being cut into such thin slivers it wasn’t overpowering and added just a hint of flavour with each mouthful.
Our second entrée was the grilled ginger scallops. This dish also has a level of curiosity about it as in addition to the enormous scallops served in the shell, there were extra smaller sized ones buried underneath. It worked out quite good value when you consider the price as there ended up being six scallops in total. It came served upon a scoop of steamed rice and wilted Chinese greens.
An unexpected touch of complementary lemon sorbet was brought to our table in the interlude between our first and second courses. After all the spice and ginger flavours it was a welcoming cleanser to prepare for our main meal.
For mains we both ordered the tropical barramundi. The fillet was grilled lightly, served on a bed of bok choy and topped with lemon butter sauce plus a spoonful of chilli mango salsa. A couple of poached prawns topped this collection of ingredients as a strange afterthought. Whilst the fish was soft and tender within, I felt the combination of lemon butter and mango salsa was too eclectic with only a small amount of each so that neither had the chance to shine. The end result was actually a somewhat bland dish. Such a shame because those simple flavours had a lot of potential.
We ended our night which Sail’s cheese platter for two which considering the price once again this was a generous portion size. The chef ensured to serve the water crackers in a separate bowl to avoid any gluten contamination which reinforced to me what a gluten free friendly place this was. There were four different types of cheese; chunks of tasty cheddar, smoked Dutch, Danish blue and Camembert sat among some pieces of fresh fruit and roasted nuts.
The complimentary breakfast provided with our room was very basic including some sliced toast, fruit and cheese plus an array of cereals. There wasn’t any gluten free bread available. You are able to pay a small amount extra for a hot cooked meal if you prefer but instead I bought some gluten free muffins from the local Woolworth’s supermarket which they grilled for me at no extra charge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Carnarvon and whilst the Best Western is by no means the five-star luxury that I love, it was comfortable and clean with friendly service. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again next time we are in the region.Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s accommodation at Best Western Carnarvon was partly funded for by Buy West Eat Best for my involvement in their WA Signature Dish competition. Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au
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.
After a number of hurdles tried to prevent us reaching our destination including missing a flight and battling a storm, we were incredibly relieved to finally drive into the pretty town of Carnarvon. Our first day was hectically busy with duties for the WA Signature Dish regional final which left our second day free to explore the area. With some help from the locals we managed to go on an extended version of the Gascoyne Food Trail; one unlike any other food trail I have gone on. Cast away images of your previous experiences visiting multiple tourist driven sites stocked with samples of artisan gourmet goods. Instead, this self-drive tour will give you a paddock to plate experience of the Gascoyne as you discover the region’s produce in its raw and naturally fresh state.
Our first stop for the morning was located down on Snapper Jetty to watch one of the local Abacus crab boats come in with their catch. Abacus Fisheries is a family run business owned by Peter Jecks and his wife. Living locally in Carnarvon Peter has been in the industry for over 20 years. Despite such a long time in the crab trade, he remains fiercely passionate being highly focused on producing a quality product in addition to proactively supporting the environmental sustainability of his fishing practices.
Peter is well known amongst Australia’s high profile foodies having featured on a number of television programs including Postcards WA and SBS’s Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia. I was very interested to hear that not a single part of the crab is wasted. The water that is used to cook the crab meat gets packaged and sold as crab stock in gourmet food stores. Even the shell is compounded to use as chitin in the medical industry for a number of applications including the manufacture of the dressings used as a second skin for burn victims.
That day, it turned out to be our lucky morning because not only did we get to see the crab fisherman come in with their haul, but we had timed our visit with one of the local fishing boats Cygnet Lass returning from a four day stint at sea.
This fishing boat provided the day’s fresh fish to Pickles Point Seafood which is located just doors down from Abacus crabs. Pickles Point is run by Gayle Dewar, one of our WA Signature dish contestants and they are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood.
Gayle was kind enough to take me behind the scenes where I saw a beautiful 3kg Red Emperor fish get neatly filleted in the blink of an eye with perfect precision. I made a mental note that next time upon our return to the region, we need to ensure arrange accommodation complete with a kitchenette! I would have loved to have bought some Red Emperor and cooked it up for dinner.
After a morning of photographing delicious fresh seafood, the two of us were desperate to grab a quick snack before we headed out onto the plantations. Harbourside Cafe is located along the same stretch of road as the fishing boat jetties so we ducked in there for a bite to eat. It has the vibe of a beach side fish and chip shop with simple décor and no table service. Their menu is literally pages long with an eclectic mix of local and imported seafood in addition to some Indian and Thai styled curries.
Avoiding the cheaper imported fish dishes, I chose the grilled Carnarvon snapper fillet served with salad and chips. The chef was happy to cook the chips in fresh oil to avoid any gluten contamination. My snapper was an enormous serve of two big fillets and I would have preferred a smaller size at a cheaper price. The fish was soft and flaked apart delicately under my fork.
The Boy ordered the crab cakes and prawn nori rolls. The crab cakes were topped with fresh prawns and a sweet chilli sauce. Obviously not being gluten free I didn’t try them but the Boy said they had a satisfying crunchy exterior with a creamy centre however didn’t have a lot of flavour.
The nori rolls were served deep fried which we both thought was quite curious. Stuffed with fresh prawns, seaweed and capsicum these non-traditionalist snacks were a novelty worth trying at least once.
Refuelled and ready for more exploring we headed out to the ring road affectionately known as the “fruit loop” by locals. The area is filled with fruit and vegetable plantations growing a wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs. The first stop heading out of town was Morel’s Orchard. Run by the absolutely lovely Jean and Doris Morel, this plantation is open to the public seven days a week including public holidays. Who needs a farmers market when you can buy your produce direct from the farmer? Honestly, it was like a dream come true for me!
Morel’s fruits were all so supersized and delicious looking but the most interesting of them all was the black sapote, or chocolate pudding fruit. This fruit is a species of persimmon with a yellow green inedible skin. The centre of the ripe fruit is a dark chocolate colour with the creamy texture of, yes you guessed it, chocolate pudding.
In addition to growing many seasonal fruits, the Morel’s property has row upon row of herbs and other vegetables growing lusciously. Everything looked so well-manicured and cared for as if it was just their own personal backyard veggie patch, but on a much larger scale. The Boy is an avid green thumb and his dream isn’t to be able to buy direct from farmers like me, but more so to be able to have his own veggie patch of this grand scale and get his veggies from his own backyard.
As we thanked Jean and Doris for their hospitality, Doris insisted that we try some of their chocolate coated frozen fruit before we left. I am so glad we did! Forget about Magnum ice-cream, these Morel freezer sweets are worth the visit in their own right. We struggled to choose which ones to eat and ended up greedily grabbing far too many; trying the chocolate coated black sapote, the custard apple, banana and strawberries along with some frozen mango. The smooth black sapote was definitely our favourite with the banana coming a close second.
Whilst many of you may never have heard of a chocolate pudding fruit before, you will be more familiar with one of Carnarvon’s biggest exports to Perth; the banana. I was grateful that Sweeter Banana’s business manager Doriana was happy to take some time out from her busy day to show us through the banana packing facility.
The Boy and I have had many a debate at home over which bananas are better; I love the smaller, sweeter ones and he prefers the picture perfect enormous ones. Whenever he does the grocery shopping he will always come home with the biggest bananas he can find which inevitably results in complaints from me because I think they taste powdery and bland. What I didn’t know was why this is the case.
Doriana was a proud advocate of the smaller banana which is characteristic of the Carnarvon-grown fruit. Their smaller size and better taste is all due to the different climate of the Gascoyne region in comparison to tropical North Queensland where the larger bananas come from. Carnarvon’s weather tends to be hot and dry having a much lower humidity level. The low humidity means that their crops do not suffer from the diseases and pests seen in the tropics making their produce pesticide free.
Because of these weather conditions, the banana plantations have to plant their trees much closer together than in the tropics. This creates a continuous canopy with the tree’s leaves which helps protect the fruit from the burning rays of the sun. As a result the bananas have a much longer growing time resulting in a smaller but much sweeter fruit. Next time you are buying bananas, look for the lunchbox sized versions and you can taste the difference for yourself. I am happy to say I have converted the Boy to eating our local WA sweeter bananas now!
Our final stop on the fruit loop was at the home store on Bumbak’s plantation. This plantation owner had become frustrated with the amount of good fruit she had to throw away year after year just because it wasn’t up to the commercial standard despite the fact it was perfectly fine to eat.
She created a way to value add to this large component of her harvest by making a variety of jams, sauces and marinades. Many of her natural home made products are gluten free and have won a long list of Awards at the Perth Royal Show. We grabbed a couple of jars to take home to try including her banana jam and some Thai coconut chilli marinade.
Heading back into town there is a cute little place worth mentioning called River Gums Café that is marked on the Gascoyne Food trail. It regrettably did not have a lot to offer gluten free so we didn’t stop there for a bite to eat but it is a very pretty location to stop for afternoon tea for those less restricted with their diets.
The last stop on the Gascoyne Food trail is “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
Until very recently you could buy yourself a drink and an ice cream from the Guardsmans’ Van kiosk to enjoy on your jetty walk. With the opening of the new Interpretive Centre, the kiosk has now been closed as it has been replaced with the One Mile Restaurant in the Centre. This restaurant was the location for our WA Signature Dish regional final. On the day of the final, the chef of One Mile Restaurant and I got chatting and I was excited to hear she plans to accommodate for gluten free customers. The restaurant was opening that week and I offered to return in order to try one of her first gluten free cake creations.
I’m glad we made the effort to return. She made a super moist orange almond cake that was different to your usual almond meal based cake. She included some gluten free flour to make it lighter and fluffier. Suffice to say I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it and the Boy who is “not a dessert person” was very happy to help me finish my generous slice. He even said it didn’t taste gluten free! Winning!
As we drove back to our hotel, the Boy looked over at me very satisfied with himself.
“Am I right?” he asked me.
All these years I had dismissed ideas of a trip up North with the perception that there was nothing up here that would interest me. Swallowing my pride humbly there was no way I could refute him; this is a place in Western Australia that every foodie needs to visit.
Gascoyne Food Trail | www.gascoynefood.com.au Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard | Facebook Lot H Harbour Road, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4078 | Open Mon-Sat from 9am-5pm (closed Jan-Feb) Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook Morel’s Orchard 486 Robinson Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8368 | Open 7 days (incl. PH) from 8.30am-5.30pm Sweeter Banana Cooperative Carnarvon | (08) 9941 9100 | www.sweeterbanana.com Bumbak’s at Terra Temptations 449 North River Road, Carnarvon, WA | 0409 377 934 Available at IGA Cottesloe River Gums Café Turn at the Big Banana on Robinson Street then it 34 Margaret R.O.W., Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8281 | Open Wed-Sunday from 10am-3pm during May to October www.carnarvonheritage.com.au The Precinct is open daily from 9am-5pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
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.
The competition event was held at One Mile Restaurant which is housed in the new Interpretive Centre facing out onto the historical One Mile Jetty in the Heritage Precinct. Whilst this ancient but well preserved jetty was constructed back in 1897, the accompanying restaurant was only built recently and hadn’t even officially opened! Their kitchen was so shiny and new creating a perfect work area for our four contestants to create their signature dishes. The fabulous four finalists for the Gascoyne region are Jerolina, Amy, Paul and Gayle. They all live in Carnarvon and show an obvious love for their home town and its amazingly vibrant produce.
The contestants weren’t scheduled to hit the stoves until mid-morning which gave Channel Seven’s Today Tonight camera team plenty of time to get loads of footage including getting individual interviews with each of them. Also joining the team was professional photographer Anton from Simply Designed, whose talent, skills and awesome equipment reminded me what a complete amateur I am with my little camera!
As each contestant was scuttled away for their private interviews, it gave me the chance to have a good chat with those remaining behind and learn more about what it is like living in Carnarvon and more importantly to plug them for suggestions on where to eat locally.
I was surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that despite being a town surrounded by an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetable plantations in addition to having access to some of the freshest seafood, many of the local eateries preferred to obtain cheaper imported ingredients in order to save on costs. Hopefully with highly publicized and well-run events like WA Signature Dish, it will help promote using local produce and this food culture will start to change. Certainly if the passion and enthusiasm of these four locals was anything to go by, it won’t be long before this happens.
Once all the contestant’s interviews were completed it was time for them to don their aprons and get down to business. Before officially commencing the cook-off, the region’s mentor chef Peter Manifis from InContro wished the contestants the best of luck before gesturing them into the kitchen.
Although the four in the kitchen were far too busy to stop and eat, the rest of us were getting pretty peckish. To our delight the newly appointed chef for One Mile Restaurant had kindly prepared a huge spread of food for us to snack on while we anxiously waited to see what the first dish would be. Our lunch included fresh sushi rolls, pumpkin soup, rice paper rolls, scones and a colourful fruit platter. When I chatted to the chef to find out what was gluten free, I was excited to hear she was a huge supporter in using her local produce and plans to promote this in her new restaurant once it opens.
Each contestant received their signature dish ingredients packed neatly in a crate and seeing them all go through each one was like watching kids at Christmas. Jerolina’s signature dish was a whole grilled Snapper served with Dabu dabu and coconut corn. Dabu dabu is a type of hot sauce found in Manado cuisine from Indonesia.
Her signature dish was the first one to be presented to the judges and she certainly set the bar high for her fellow finalists. The fish was so delicate and moist with a rich, spicy flavour from the Dabu dabu sauce. The chargrilled corn also had a hint of spice which balanced elegantly with the sweet coconut flavours.
Those of you who know me well, you will be familiar with my “flying hands of fury”. It is a term used by my friends to describe my ever-moving and highly expressive hand movements. Well, actually they are sometimes more like arm movements.
Within minutes of meeting Amy I concluded we must have been separated at birth because she also sported a similarly fantastic pair of flying hands of fury. Being such an energetic and vibrant person I was excited to see what creative and crazy dish she would create. Her signature dish was a stunning carpaccio of kangaroo fillet served on a bed of Oriental lentils with pickled beetroot. It was plated immaculately and I found it hard to believe she had no chef training.
As I am allergic to kangaroo meat, unfortunately I didn’t try this dish. Roo causes me to develop a rather unusual anaphylactic like response where my throat swells up and I struggle to breathe. Kind of like what I imagine a nut allergy to be. But to roo! It’s not pleasant. I was informed by those who ate the carpaccio that the meat was uber-tender and matched well with the creamy lentils and sweet beetroot.
Gayle runs the front of house for Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard in Carnarvon. Pickles Point are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood so it was logical that this would be the main feature of her signature dish.
She cooked a freshly cut fillet of Shark Bay Pink Snapper topped with butterflied Tiger prawns and served on a sweet potato mash with lime and mayonnaise. I looked over at the judge’s faces and I could see they were struggling to choose a winner. It was going to be such a hard call to make as every dish was outstanding.
The lovely, smiling Paul was the lucky last competitor to serve up his signature dish to the judging panel. This didn’t appear to frazzle him whatsoever and he looked so zen and calm as he prepared his dish. I wish cooking had that effect on me!
His dish was titled the “Gascoyne seafood tasting plate”. It comprised of four equally outstanding components each showcasing a outstanding number of key hero ingredients from the Gascoyne region; King prawns with salsa verde, citrus cured snapper, pan fried Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled vegetables; and snapper tartare with basil drizzle.
Narrowing it down to just one winner was going to be very hard and I didn’t envy the judges having to make this decision. The winner of each regional final will go on to battle it out for the title of WA Signature Dish on WA Day in June. The other three regional finalists are from the areas of Southern Forests, Great Southern and Perth. In order to help prepare the contestants for the big finale, each regional winner will receive intense one-on-one training from their mentor chef. I can see the Peter has a strong competitive streak in him so we couldn’t have asked for a more motivated chef to train our finalist!
As the crowd gathered around to wait for the announcement of the winner I could feel the excitement and tension in the air. The judges had used a points system to score each dish, assessing its flavour, presentation and originality but also on its ability to proudly showcase the produce from the Gascoyne region. Before they declared the winner, we were informed that it was an extremely close call with the top two contestants so close they nearly came in at a tie.
And the winner of the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional is……..Paul Kelly with his stunning Gascoyne seafood tasting plate. A huge congratulations to you Paul and also a big well done to Jerolina, Amy and Gayle for creating such amazing and individual signature dishes. Hopefully we may all meet again next year? 😉
Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best.
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.
We rocked up to Perth airport the next day for our flight only to discover that I got our departure times mixed up with those of our original flight and consequently we missed the plane! To make matters worse, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a weather warning for the Gascoyne region predicting flash floods and a lot of rain. Gulp. Were we actually going to make it up North at all?
The Qantas service desk staff were quite empathetic about our plight which I found surprising given that during our time spent at their desk there were a number of other passengers who had also missed their flights. One passenger was getting quite agitated and as she blame shifted to all those around her I admired the level of patience maintained by the Qantas staff despite being confronted by such grumpy people.
The following day we returned back to the airport for our second attempt at getting to Exmouth. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so we made our way to the Qantas Lounge to relax. There was a disappointing amount of gluten free food available in the Lounge with only plain rice cakes, sliced tomato and capsicum on offer. There was also some gluten free muesli but it contained dried fruit, which is no good for a fructose malabsorber. The Boy had much better options and happily made himself a couple of cheese and tomato toasties. The smell of melted cheese was enough to make me swoon.
After filling up on a stack of rice cakes I noticed the departure screen flashed up with ***DELAYED DEPARTURE*** next to our flight and I really started to think this trip was doomed. I enquired at the Qantas Club desk why the plane was delayed and was relieved to learn that it was simply because a crew member had fallen sick. Boo for them but phew for us!
Finally, over half an hour after the scheduled departure time we made our way to the gate. Our Qantas Link plane was a De Havilland DHC-8 Dash 400. This type of plane is a turbo propeller however it was much quieter than I expected it to be if you excluded the initial noisy climb to cruising altitude. The seats are arranged in a comfortable 2-2 configuration and there was no inflight entertainment available. The flight takes around two and a half hours.
We were served a light complementary in-flight snack of a savoury zucchini muffin and some choc chip biscuits. There was no option to choose a gluten free friendly meal on booking the flight so I was thankful I had binged on those plain rice cakes in the Lounge.
We arranged a hire car with Budget using the Qantas website at the same time when we booked our flights. Given the weather warnings I was grateful we got upgraded to a 4 wheel drive Nissan Pajero. Having already done my research I knew that there is only one roadside petrol station between Learmonth airport and Carnarvon so I ensured my luggage was packed full of gluten free snacks for us to munch on for the drive.
We drove for three and a half hours in the intermittently pouring rain taking great caution on the roads as there were a lot of wandering livestock happily grazing along the roadside. In the breaks in the rain we managed to pull over and take some quick pictures but most of the trip it felt like we were racing the storm to our destination. It was a relief to check into our hotel the Best Western in Carnarvon completely unscathed despite all odds trying to prevent us getting there. I could barely sleep that night as I was too excited about what the following day would bring! Stay tuned as my post on the WA Signature dish Gascoyne regional final will be next in this series!
For those not up to speed on the happenings here on Chompchomp, I have been selected to be the official blogger for the Gascoyne region in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. This is a competition open to all amateur cooks in Western Australia with the mission to find the best dish that represents our State on a plate.
The Gascoyne region is located in the north-west of our State about 900 km north of Perth. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Coral Bay, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef.
To enter a recipe in the WA Signature Dish competition, contestants have to use at least one ingredient from the choice of “hero” producers located in their region. For the Gascoyne these producers are:
- • Pickles Point Seafood who are well-known for their fresh local seafood including snapper, prawns and crab,
- • Sweeter Banana Co-op who supply much of our bananas here in Perth and around the State,
- • Loveapple who grow a variety of fruit and vegetables including red capsicums, tomatoes and eggplants, and
- • Morels Orchard who grow a wide range of tropical fruits plus loads of fresh herbs.
There are four finalists for each region that have been carefully selected from the multitude of recipes that were submitted for the competition. There will be four regional finals held over the next week in order to narrow it down to just one chef from each region who then go on to compete in the final on WA Day in June.
The Gascoyne finalists will be facing each other for their competition cook off on Monday 5th May in Carnarvon. The competition will be judged by Chef Peter Manifis from InContro restaurant in South Perth. I shall be travelling up to the Gascoyne region to be able to join them on the day. Being quite a distance to travel the Boy has agreed to go with me and make a holiday of it. We will stay up in the region for the week exploring all the amazing food they have to offer.
The four Gascoyne regional finalists are:
Jerolina RankinQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple and fresh, with influence from my Indonesian heritage Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? It sums up the Gascoyne – fresh seafood, sunshine in the climate, freshness of the soil and all the flavour that it brings to each individual ingredient.
Paul KellyQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple, I like to integrate local ingredients and see how they work together Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? Mine is wider than a dish, it’s a tasting plate – anyone that comes to town could pick a component and get a taste of the region – “a Taste of the Gascoyne”. It’s easy and versatile, so you could be in the caravan park or camping and cook parts of this dish.
Amy SheltonQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Home style but with English influence from my parents heritage. Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? It’s a little bit different. People are scared to cook with roo, so I hope the way in which I have created this dish, inspires others to try it.
Gayle DewarQ: How would you describe your style of cooking? Simple and minimalist I like to let the produce speak for itself. I’m not one for disguising flavour, especially seafood Q: Why should your dish win the title of WA’s Signature Dish? My produce is beautiful and fresh and it’s a simple dish with simple flavours. It’s just awesome.
Whilst I have travelled most of the south west of our state many times over, the seaside town of Dongara is the furthest I have ever travelled north. I feel somewhat shameful of this fact as I consider myself loyal to this beautiful state and I am very excited to be able to explore this Gascoyne region and all the food it has to offer.
Stay tuned for my next instalment!