The Gascoyne region in the north-west of our State is sometimes called the “food bowl of Western Australia”. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef where you are able to swim in the sea alongside the majestic whale sharks. The climate is warm all year round with average temperatures ranging from around 25- 30 C allowing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to be cultivated including bananas, mangos and tomatoes.
The region is also well known for its freshly caught seafood which includes snapper, mullet, whiting, prawns, scallops and crab. I am really looking forward to our travels up North for the WA Signature Dish regional final in early May as I know I will be literally living on seafood. After a whole month of Eat Drink Perth overindulgence my heart and liver will surely be thanking me.
I am a massive believer in sourcing local produce and will go out of my way to ensure the majority of food I eat is locally grown, fished, farmed and produced in this beautiful State I call home. The logical way for me to do this is to buy direct from the producers themselves however this can be a very time consuming process when you want to eat a wide range of food!
Buy West Eat Best is a government funded food labelling program which makes my life easier by providing a way of clearly identifying Western Australian produce. In order to use the logo businesses must apply and need to meet certain criteria before being registered. Regular random checks are performed to ensure compliance at both the retail and the manufacturing level.
We really have to consider ourselves lucky living here in Perth. Not only do we have the Swan Valley, a fabulous wine region only half an hour’s drive from the CBD, but for those willing to do a weekender trip we also have Margaret River. In November every year this relaxed little town becomes a buzz with life for the three day food festival; Gourmet Escape. Last year the Boy and I attended in full feasting force visiting the Gourmet Village on both days in addition to attending a few fabulous satellite events. We ate uncontrollably all weekend long and our repeated episodes of over-indulgence stretched our stomachs to near-bursting capacity. After just a few hours of not eating, our saggy baggy internal gizzards would start to gurgle and unbelievably we would get hungry again. On our last night before returning to Perth, we rolled our giant sized bodies down to the main strip to find ourselves more food. Our noses lead us to Morries Anytime.
Last night marked the launch of the 2014 IGA Taste Great Southern Food and Wine festival with the Perth Launch Party being held at the State Theatre Centre in Northbridge. I joined a group of invited guests from the food industry as we wined and dined on a wonderful selection of the amazing produce this region has to offer.
The Taste Great Southern festival runs over the next four weeks with over 45 events held across the Great Southern region ranging from farmers markets, pop up dinners, guest chef cooking demonstrations, degustation dinners, beach BBQ’s and picnics.
This year a few celebrity chefs will make an appearance at the festival including the legendary Stephanie Alexander, bright and bubbly Poh Ling Leow and WA’s own Anna Gare.
Gourmet Escape is a three-day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. It attracts foodies from all around the country and the world in order to feast on the finest this region has to offer. The core part of the festival is centred on the Gourmet Village which is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate. I have written a full account of our experience at the Gourmet Village here.
Throughout the indulgent weekend there are also a number of satellite events held featuring world-famous chefs and offering experiences such as long table lunches, luxurious dinners and even pop up beach barbecues. These events sell out in a flash and for those who are keen, be sure to get yourselves on the pre-sale lists to avoid missing out. The day that all the key tickets were released for sale I was working a full day with a busy schedule so I left all our purchasing up to the Boy. One of our many compatibilities is our love for food so I trusted he would make some good decisions. His choices included two of the Food For Thought Sessions held at the picturesque Voyager Estate grounds.
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
After decades of suffering from the consequences of eating gluten, it has been incredible to discover what life is really about. No itching and scratching, no depression or wild mood swings, endless energy, the disappearance of embarrassing, unsightly eczema and best of all I feel on top of the world. Since learning more about my body and what it can and cannot digest, I have delved deeper and deeper into what IS ideal nutrition. Part of that journey has involved eating much more raw, unprocessed and plant based food. Whilst I’m not a strict vegetarian by any means, meat is only something I eat once or twice a week and the majority of that is seafood. Recently we took a weekend break down to Margaret River and fell off the wagon by eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. After three days of pure gluttony it was time to head home by which point our bodies were crying out for something healthy. I had heard of a vegetarian café called Samudra located in the heart of Dunsborough and instructed the Boy to take us there urgently!
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
With the current Australian dollar being high coupled with overinflated prices in Perth, we have noticed that it is actually quite a bit cheaper to go on overseas holiday to a nearby Asian country than it is to holiday in Western Australia. Consequently of late we have been neglecting our frequent visits “down south” and replacing them with visits to Bali and Thailand.
But despite this fact, nothing beats a quick local getaway for its ease and accessibility. It was our last day of our minibreak in Margaret River and reflecting back on our weekend we were both grateful for our location choice. We hadn’t spent an hour trying to cram everything into our two suitcases nor was our little holiday concluding in a mad dash to the airport to catch a plane. Yes, travelling locally still has its definite perks. The car was chinking loudly due to all my wine purchases and our car eskie was jammed full of gourmet goodies; I was trying my hardest to make the most of having no limit on my baggage allowance!
It was our first morning at Chandeliers on Abbey and we woke up to nothing but the soft twitter of birds. The peace and quiet of the country coupled with an amazingly comfortable bed had allowed both of us to get the first uninterrupted night’s sleep since my evil gastro hit nearly a week ago. Although I still wasn’t quite 100%, I definitely felt much more revived, refreshed and ready to eat again. What perfect timing.
Our chalet had a fridge stocked with some fresh orange juice, milk, eggs and butter and a pantry stocked with tea and coffee. I had presumed there would be nothing for us to eat in the chalet for breakfast, so I brought some gluten-free bread, avocado and tomatoes from our fridge at home. These fresh provisions were combined for a quick and satisfying cooked breakfast and feeling energised off we set on a self-guided tour. I planned to stop in at a few old favourites mixed in with a couple of places we hadn’t visited before.
What a horrific week it’s been for me! This persistent stomach bug has put me out of action for the whole week!. It started brewing on my wedding dress shopping day with my bestie and then developed more dramatically into a further two days at home in bed. I always get racked with guilt whenever I take a sick day as everyone else’s work load increases to compensate for my absence. So when I woke up on the fourth day and managed to hold a piece of toast down I figured surely I must be good to go. I was wrong and a few hours later my manager sent me home ashen-faced and dizzy.