I need to give you a word of warning before you commence reading this post. If you are even just half the chocoholic that I am, some of the following images may cause a rapid heart rate, salivation and excitement. Across Australia tomorrow Chocolateria San Churro officially launch their new winter menu and last week I kindly agreed to take a hit for the team and attend their preview evening.
San Churro is an Australian business first created in Melbourne in 2004 by founders Kelly Smith and Giro Maurici who were inspired whilst travelling by the traditional breakfast in Spain of thick hot chocolate and churros. The company has since grown to 37 stores across five states including eight cafes here in Perth; Northbridge, Vic Park, Subiaco, Fremantle, Mandurah, Hillarys, Rockingham and Leederville. Whilst churros are unfortunately not gluten free, I was enlightened to find there are still a number of chocolaty treats I can enjoy.
The Precinct is one of my favourite locals; it only takes us about fifteen minutes to walk there from our house, it has an ever changing and interesting wine list and most importantly they are very gluten free and vegetarian focused. Whilst I have already written two full posts on our Precinct dining experiences, our recent visit to try their new menu warrants at least a little photographic mention on the blog. Please note this was eaten over two nights….;-)
Their new summer menu has moved away from the traditional structure of entrées and mains onto the more modern way of dining; share plates. More than half the menu is gluten free and there are over half a dozen vegetarian options that branch out well beyond the common offerings.
I moved into the Vic Park area nearly twenty years ago when I was a young, whipper-snapper uni student. As is often the case when living in shared housing, I never really stayed in one location for long. I dotted about the neighbourhood in a number of houses until the Boy and I finally settled down and bought our own home. Over the years, it has been exciting watching my suburb’s growth and development and it has become a place that its residents are now fiercely proud of. One of the best things that I love about Vic Park are our many options for dining out. We are totally spoilt for choice with literally the A to Z of international cuisine on our doorstep in addition to some modern wine bars and pubs. One of the recent newcomers to the café strip is Grill’d Victoria Park burger bar.
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
I have lived in the Vic Park area for nearly twenty years and have loved watching the neighbourhood develop and grow. It is a great place to live for numerous reasons but in my humble opinion one of the biggest selling factors is the variety of restaurants and cafes sitting right on our doorstep. I’m certain we nearly have the “A to Z” of international cuisine and so we never seem to run out of options. One of our regular haunts in the past has been The Precinct; a casual but funky eatery only a short fifteen minute stroll from our front door. The past few months my life has been exceedingly complicated and stressful and so when my Bestie proposed to me to catch up with another mutual close friend of ours Shannon I leaped at the opportunity to be able to switch off and relax. To make things even easier for me, Shannon was more than happy to travel over to our stompin’ ground and let us go local. Getting a booking at the last-minute on a Friday night can be tricky and after several phone calls to different restaurants I was starting to think we were out of luck. Finally we had success and managed to secure a table at the Precinct, seeing as we hadn’t been there for a several months we were happy to return.
One of the most frustrating things about being a business owner is losing a good staff member. What makes it even harder is when not only are you sad to see them leave the business but you know you will also miss them as a friend. As a final bid farewell to one of our valued team members we all made the trek to the Swan Valley on a sunny Sunday to The Cheese Barrel. There was a great turn out and we all made ourselves comfortable in the downstairs area on the abundance of couches and cushions.
Located next door to Olive Farm Wines just off Great Northern Highway, The Cheese Barrel has a tremendous menu of cheese from all around the world. They have themed cheese boards such as “Blue Lovers Paradise” or “Soft Cheese Sensation” or alternatively you can order a regional board from Australia, France, Spain or Italy. For those more specific with their cheesy needs individual cheeses can be purchased in 50 gram portions or larger.
We rocked up obliviously late for lunch just as Food For Me was near their closing time hoping to grab a bite to eat. I still hadn’t twigged that they were about to shut and began to peruse the menu at which point the waiter politely informed me the kitchen was closed. Not perturbed in any way he kindly smiled and offered to reheat some of the food from the cabinet for us. After apologising profusely for our ignorance we accepted his offer.
I selected the spinach frittata with bacon, pine nuts and feta plus a beetroot and spinach salad. The frittata was light and set firmly without being chewy or unpleasant. The salad was obviously reaching the end of its life span but seeing as we had rudely barged our way in at the thirteenth hour I figured this to be expected at this time of day.
Some of you may recall my unusual Australia Day weekend this year. It started off at our local pub The Broken Hill Hotel where we munched on casual pub food with drinks a plenty and could even see the fireworks show from where we sat on their balcony. A far cry from our usual annual party extravaganza we hold at our house but a great night out all the same. The reason for such a tame national holiday you see was that the weekend preceeding this relaxing weekend happened to be my Hen’s day. In true Chompchomp style I burnt all my candles at both ends and managed to come out with a fair share of bruises coupled a strained joint in my spine. It was worth it; we had a total hoot of a time but entertaining and cooking for the masses was out of my capabilities that following weekend.
Everyone has their favourite types of cuisine but just to be a bit complicated I have three. Staying close to my roots my first favourite is French cuisine. Secondly, thanks to my incurable addiction to raw fish, the logical next player is Japanese. But in more recent years, my love of Thailand and their food has grown exponentially fuelled by some incredible trips to Thailand with the Boy where we have celebrated a close friend’s wedding, got engaged and found the wedding venue of our dreams and ultimately returned there to marry. It holds a very special place in both our hearts.
We traditionally celebrate Australia Day in our household by throwing a Triple J Hottest 100 countdown pool party. Joined by our close friends we devour lots of good food, drinks a plenty and generally end our night with a short stroll to the end of the street to view the fireworks show. In the ten years we have lived in this house we have only had one year off when I had the misfortune to be rostered on to work.
On the weekend prior to Australia Day this year it was my Hen’s day. It was a fabulous day out in the Swan Valley which turned into a Hen’s night with many of us boogying on the dance floor of Geisha nightclub until the wee hours of the morning. I had an absolutely ball of a time and am so grateful for all that came to the various parts of the day and night to celebrate with me.
I am quite an unconventional bride. At the time we got engaged; the Boy and I had already been together for over ten years and bought both a house and a business. It’s not that either of us is against marriage, it just wasn’t a priority for us at the time. After getting engaged I have found the whole process of planning for a wedding very gradual as I am not one of those girls that have all the details of their big day planned out in their heads before their respective other has even popped the question.
It was the day my Bestie was to fly out to Vietnam for three weeks to finish her yoga teacher training course and we were both feeling the guilt of neglecting our friendship. Not because either of us meant to avoid each other by any means, we just had so much going on individually in our own lives that time got the better of us and before we knew it; her departure day had arrived.
We are not big eaters of classic fast food; I’m talking burgers, pizza, kebabs and the like. Ultimately I prefer much more refined dining but let’s be honest, one simply cannot afford to do that every weekend. At least not on my income. So when we both got a craving for junk, we decided to head to our local V Burger Bar excited about our naughty treat. Last year our initial attempts at visiting this popular place resulted in us being diverted over to Pancho’s Mexican Villa due to a lack of gluten free buns. Now that was some night…..sloppy microwaved food, blistering burns and a scathing retaliation from a fan (or owner) in the wake of my review; the Pancho’s post has certainly become infamous!
I had been stuffing my face with scrumptious gluten free cakes at the Clandestine Cake Club all afternoon. Despite my gluttony I wasn’t feeling overly full and seeing as the Boy had actually gone to the effort to book us a dinner reservation at The Precinct in Victoria Park so I couldn’t exactly refuse. Being the obsessed foodie of the house, I am generally the one who arranges our regular eating expeditions and so I get very excited when the Boy does it all for me. I was hoping I could extend my afternoon with the bestie and drag her along too especially as she hadn’t hung out with the both of us in some time. However my powers of persuasion were seemingly dulled by all my cake indulgence because she declined my pleading to return home to study for her yoga teacher training class the following day.
I have been literally dying to take the Boy with me to The Imp in Victoria Park for so long but every time we plan to go there it is so packed full of customers that there is no free table available for us. Having been there several times myself I knew he would love it. It’s always buzzing and alive with atmosphere and the staff are all funky, vibrant and friendly. We had completed our usual Sunday walk around the river together accompanied by my new toy; my first DLSR camera which I have nicknamed “Gordon”. I had been busy happy snapping away at the gorgeous scenery and felt that all too familiar reminder what an awesome city we live in.
My sister’s impromptu and random visit to Perth for New Year’s seemed to keep getting extended longer and longer. Surely she has a job back in Melbourne to return to? My sister and I had partied fairly hard and fast for five days straight leaving us both a bit scattered and sleep deprived. At the end point of all this, both the boy and I had to return to work whilst my sis remained on her indefinite holiday.
The problem is when you are of one of the only poor souls who have to return to work whilst being surrounded by those still in holiday mood; you completely lose your chance to chip away at your own personal sleep debt. Eventually you may find you get a second wind of energy (or be it a third wind, or in this case – I actually think I lost track of the number). The boy had matters made even worse for him by missing out on most of it after contracting a gastro bug that floored him for over five days.
It was Friday night and the boy phoned me say he had just finished work and was about to head home. We had made dinner plans for in the city and it looked like he was right on schedule to get home in time for us to head straight in. Excitedly I starting thinking that we may even have time to quickly stop in at the Greenhouse for a pre-dinner drink! But as he made his way back to his car, he received a call informing him that the air conditioners in the server room were failing. This meant he would need to wait back for someone to arrive to fix them. What was even more annoying for him was that the repair men would be at least two hours away! So by the time he eventually did get home, our plans to head into the city sounded like far too much like a mission for him, so we decided to go local and head to Little Ying Thai instead.
I have been keen to try the popular V Burger Bar for absolutely ages, so after creating much hype with the boy all day (including performing a little dance that he calls my Homer dance), we journeyed down to the Albany Highway café strip to give their burgers a shot. To my extreme disappointment I was to find they had run out of gluten-free buns! I was so devastated! I had been conjuring up images of sinking my teeth deep into a juicy burger for much of the day and nearly stamped my feet like a child in the middle of the restaurant due to my exasperation.
Walking out of the restaurant I could see the dismay on the boy’s face too. I know how much he loves nachos, so I made what ended up being a very bad decision and suggested we stroll over to Pancho’s Mexican Villa instead. We walked by all the tried and tested Thai and other Asian joints and walked down the dirty mall corridor into a packed and noisy restaurant.
It’s only one week until our engagement party! And even better still nearly everyone is coming! My Mum is travelling over from Adelaide and my sister is flying in from Melbourne. I am actually originally from the Eastern states but I have lived over here for seventeen years with a few years also in London. During my time in sunny Perth my Dad and Step mum have not been able to attend any of my little life milestones – not my 18th, my 21st, my University graduation or even my 30th birthday. So you can imagine my delight when they told me without hesitation that they are both flying over for our engagement party! To top it all off; my estranged best friend who has lived up in Dongara for far too long has decided to take the plunge and move down to Perth to live with her boyfriend. This means two of my gorgeous bridesmaids will both be in Perth for all the wedding planning and festivities!
Oh my goodness! What bliss it has been this week to finally return back to my gluten free diet! I know it will take me a few weeks for my skin to heal and a few more weeks to maybe months on top of that for my gut to settle down……but my mood? It is astonishing how avoiding eating just one seemingly harmless little protein can alter my mind so dramatically. For the past six weeks I have carried a whinging, negative dark presence in my mind that was constantly criticising and complaining about everything and anything, and made dealing with all the other physical effects of eating gluten so much more difficult. I was oblivious to the presence of this monkey on my back until now when I can see he has left! My energy and excitement for life is returning and my sense of humour is lifted!
I decided to buy a Scoopon to Old Cathay Restaurant to give to my beloved as a small token gift to further lengthen our post-engagement celebrations. I’m currently on Doctors orders to punish my body with six weeks of gluten hell in order to determine for once and for all whether I am actually coeliac or just have fructose malabsorption. I am still trying to continue to convince myself that this is a time to embrace this character building experience as an opportunity to have total freedom in ordering whatever I like and just grit and bear the consequences.