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
This year I am very excited to be chosen as the official blogger for the Coles Gluten Free Food & Healthy Living Expo in Perth. My journey into a gluten free lifestyle was one I wished happened earlier in my life. Right from early childhood I was plagued with severe skin disease and gastrointestinal problems. I saw multiple dermatologists and immunologists, lathered myself in steroid creams until my skin turned paper thin until finally in my early thirties my iron levels plummeted to dangerous levels and I was referred onto a gastroenterologist.
Despite the initial difficultly of converting to eating an exclusively gluten free diet, within weeks my energy levels improved, my brain became clearer, my gut deflated and became much happier but most obviously; my disfiguring skin disease all but vanished. No longer did I feel like I had to hide under a paper bag! In addition to having gluten intolerance I also suffer from fructose malabsorption along with some other family members of mine however fortunately my symptoms relating to this condition are comparatively mild.
This year the Coles Gluten Free Food & Healthy Living Expo is held on the 15th and 16th of March at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. The weekend will be an action packed two days with over 50 companies on show; including both local and national businesses. There will be gluten free food available to buy as well as gluten free beer and wine.
Over the day there will be several seminars held on varied topics including coeliac disease diagnosis and treatment, FODMAPs and healthy eating for weight control.
There will also be some lively cooking sessions with ex-Masterchef finalists Michael Weldon and Courtney Roulston hitting the stage in addition to sessions with Laila Gampfer from Rawsome and Kim McCosker from “4 Ingredients” fame.
For your chance to WIN a free double pass to the Coles Gluten Free Food & Healthy Living Expo, share with us who your favourite exhibitor at the show will be and why in the comments section below then head over and like my Facebook page and sign up to receive my Chompchomp updates by email. Good luck!
Competition Terms and Conditions
● Competition is open to all Chompchomp readers who have an Australian postal address
● The winner will be chosen by myself and the Boy based on the most interesting and creative answer written in the comments section below in addition to liking my Chompchomp Facebook page and signing up for Chompchomp updates by email.
● Entries close 5.00pm Thursday 6th March 2014
Yelp is a company that operates a local search website focused on user reviews much like Urbanspoon, however it encompasses all types of businesses not just restaurants and cafes. Whilst Yelp originated in the US nearly ten years ago, it has more recently landed upon our shores in Australia and has grown steadily in its popularity since. Each capital city has its own dedicated team of promoters who host a number of fun events for their “Yelp Elite” reviewers with the aim to help raise the profile of local businesses. I don’t often blog about these events however my most recent experience at Five Bar has made me want to share my renewed opinion of this venue with you.
I first visited Five Bar back in my early blogging days in November 2011. I cannot believe how much my writing style and photography have developed since then! Whilst I didn’t have anything truly negative to say about that visit, I did find I was very limited with what I could eat that would suit my food allergies. There was a distinct lack of flexibility with kitchen staff and as a result we didn’t return. When I recently received an invitation to their new Spring menu launch I was intrigued to see how they would handle my requirements this time round.
After being greeted by the always smiling Yelp team, Five Bar’s manager Andy welcomed us warmly and talked us through the philosophy and history behind Five Bar. Later in the evening he came over to me to chat and explained that in previous years gone by his kitchen staff weren’t as familiar in working with customers with food allergies as his current staff are today. He carefully advised me what I could and couldn’t enjoy off their tasting menu and assured me that the kitchen would organise a couple of extra gluten free dishes just for me.
I was happy to see two of my favourite gluten free dishes from my previous visit remained on the menu as regulars; the roasted field mushrooms and the addictive sweet potato fries. The mushrooms are normally served on bread but are just as tasty on their own. The sweet potato fries come with a coriander mayo and are the type of chips you would fight someone over for the last one. The kitchen appeared to be well rehearsed in churning out a number of gluten free options for me over the course of the evening. Now whilst I understand that at a free sponsored event it is impossible to document an honest, accurate review of the food because the chef knows that people will be scrutinising it; I wouldn’t have thought that a total change in attitude towards food allergies would be something that you could fake.
There was a distinct Asian influence with a lot of the dishes making them light and easy to eat, the perfect food to match with a casual Sunday session with friends. The coriander and avocado ceviche with cucumber and crispy salmon skin tasted as fresh as summer and I was informed by the beer drinkers it matched perfectly with the chosen beers from Feral Brewery.
To wrap up the night, Steve from Feral Brewery gave us a very animated and passionate summary of what his microbrewery Feral is about. You can read about my recent visit to Feral Brewing Company here.
It may not come as a surprise to you that after eating all this food the Boy and I still wanted more. I take this food blogging career very seriously; it’s not a successful foodie outing until I am bursting at the seams. I am one of those strange people that actually really enjoys the feeling of being overly full. Thankfully the Boy and I were joined by a couple of other like-minded food bloggers; Whitney from dineWHITme and Sandy from Hungry Again. The four of us bundled ourselves up in jackets and scarves and traipsed down Beaufort Street to the Beaufort Street Merchant.
As always the Merchant had plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options to satisfy our needs. I particularly liked their chick pea chips. Thick cut like polenta, they were fluffy light inside almost like tofu.
Whit and Sandy shared the potato gnocchi which we were informed they considered it to be the best gnocchi in town. With added truffled Swiss Brown mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts and comte cheese it may have been a fair statement. Oh gluten why do you have to be in gnocchi?
I ordered the vitello tonnato; thinly sliced veal dressed with a thick tuna mayo, crispy capers and crumbed mozzarella that I was assured by our waiter was gluten free. I also ordered some baby potatoes on the side which came with Brussel sprouts and truffled mayo. I must admit that as I ate each indulgent ball of crumbed mozzarella, there were alarm bells going off in the back depths of my brain saying: “Warning! Warning! Gluten alert!”. I mean since when are crumbed mozzarella balls gluten free? However courtesy of the sultry dim lighting, excesses of wine and abundance of good conversation my subconscious’s attempt to save me was wasted.
The Boy ordered the organic spelt salad which almost looked too healthy to be tasty but I was assured that not only did his body thank him but so did his taste buds. The spelt was tossed through some spicy Harissa along with coriander, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and radish.
This night was one of those rare occasions where was no room for dessert and as the Boy and I both had to start work the following day at an obscenely early hour we were happy to call it a night. The penny didn’t drop that I had eaten gluten until much later into the wee hours of the morning when I was woken by the delightful effects that gluten casts upon me. Suffice to say my next day at work was quite a grim one. Gluten makes me very fuzzy in the head and it is no surprise that I ended up crashing my car on the way home from work! Damn you gluten! I was left feeling very disappointed as I have always thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the Beaufort Street Merchant. Not anymore. On a brighter note, I’ll be sure to be returning to Five Bar.www.fivebar.com.au www.beaufortmerchant.com
Although I’m not really a baby person it is hard not to get excited when a close friend falls pregnant. One of our long-term vets is nearly at the end of her first pregnancy and she is one of those gentle, nurturing types that just seems to be born to be a mother. The joys of anticipation for the approaching arrival were very infectious amongst us women at work, so in a rather unconventional styled baby shower we all gathered together at Feral Brewing Company for a Sunday lunch to celebrate. It was the first sunny day in weeks and it was heavenly to be able to enjoy some country sunshine.
Quite a number of people at our table chose to order the pork belly. The pork was twice cooked and served on a bed of creamed cauliflower and “crinkled” courgettes. To balance the flavours with some sweetness the dish was topped with a sticky rum & apple relish. I was fortunate enough to sit next to the expecting mum’s husband who ordered the pork belly but curiously doesn’t like crackling. It wasn’t hard to find volunteers on the table including myself that were willing to take said crackling off his hands. Aren’t we kind folk? The artery blocking crackling had a satisfying crunch that was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the table.
The Feral Brewing Company offers good value in the valley; I was impressed with the size of the meals in relation to the price. The plump grain fed Porterhouse steak was a decent 300 gm cut and came with paprika potatoes, buttered broccolini and a juicy feta stuffed field mushroom.
I needed to preserve a bit of room in my stomach as we were heading out for dinner later that evening so I opted for the charcuterie meat board for something light. Creamy Persian feta, grilled Spanish chorizo, thinly shaved prosciutto and some roasted beef sirloin were served along with some locally pickled vegetables. The platter normally comes with crusty bread but I asked for it to be served gluten free. Some crackers arrived with it but I wasn’t sure whether they were gluten free or not so I left them. I wasn’t that bothered otherwise I would have asked. The chorizo was juicy and succulent and was my favourite component of this dish.
My platter was designed to share but everyone had their own full plates to contend with resulting in little luck sharing it around. My head nurse sitting next to me helped marginally to make a dent on the proviso and I helped her with her trio of dips. The dips of the days included spicy Moroccan dhal, creamy spring onion and “funky mushroom”. I smeared some of the dhal on my pickled vegetables as a bread substitute. It had a reasonable kicked to it and went well with the pickle!
Our adorable cupcakes for the day were designed and made by Cooks Cakes. Each cupcake had a gorgeous baby themed decoration and the cakes were a mix of flavours; red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Alas none were gluten free this time round.
Feral Brewing Company offers a very casual atmosphere nestled in the heart of the Swan Valley with hearty grub and a great range of craft beers. Not being able to drink most beer due to gluten intolerance I cannot tell you much about their hand-crafted beers, but they are currently title holders for the Australian International Beer Awards “Best Medium Australian Brewery”. Their food is simple pub styled food priced reasonably well with modest portion sizes.Feral Brewing Company 152 Haddrill Road, Baskerville WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4657 | www.feralbrewing.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrée$8.50-12, Mains $23-38 Food: 3.5/5 (simple, fresh, hearty meals) Service: 3/5 (friendly, drinks service a little slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (country sunshine, rolling hills and vineyards) Drinks: 3/5 (I need the Boy to review the beers but I couldn’t convince him to come to a baby shower) Total: 13/20
As much as I love my hometown of Perth, its distance behind larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne can be reflected in a number of ways in the culinary world. We lack any widespread prevalence of gourmet food trucks, Latin American cuisine barely makes a mention, we often pay high prices for poor customer service and sometimes poor quality food and finally, up until very recently we have had very few small bars worth a visit that are open beyond bedtime.
But with the new licensing laws brought in things are a’changing for little Perth and more and more funky small bars are popping up around the city and its surrounds. I have followed Frisk Small Bar on social media for some months but with all the wedding preparations absorbing my every waking minute we have had very little time to go out and explore new bars such as these.
It’s funny how sometimes the more you think of someone or something, fate seems to bring you together. Like how you will think of a friend you haven’t spoken to for months and then you bump into them at the shops. Well, strangely enough along those lines I received an email from Frisk inviting me to come and join them for a drink or two on the house. After initially having to cancel due to injuring my neck at my hen’s day, we rescheduled for a Friday night that just happened to occur at the end of a very hectic week for both of us.
Many years ago, long before the building that houses Frisk was built existed a night club called DCs. It was something of an institution amongst my friends and I and we spent many of our weekends in our twenties partying under their roof until the sun came up. This is the place where many friendships were formed, relationships made and broken and brings a nostalgic smile to my face. When the building was originally bulldozed to make way for apartments it felt like an end of an era. As I took my seat at Frisk’s bar it dawned on me that I was sitting on what once was the dance floor and it made me so glad that at least it was put to good use.
Frisk’s bar houses more gins than you could shake a stick at so it seemed logical that this should be the theme of our night. I started off with the WA Gimlet; a refreshing cocktail made with locally distilled Westwinds Cutlass gin, fresh lime and basil and rose marmalade. The hints of herbs left a clean after-taste and put me in a brighter and energising mood for the evening.
The Boy’s cocktail was not on the menu and was one of our bartenders Will’s own creations. He called it his twist on a South side. Traditionally made with gin, sugar, mint and lemon, this thirst quenching beverage had Will’s own special mix of syrup containing chilli, cinnamon and other sweet spices. This lifted the whole perspective of this popular drink to another superior level. He used a “Mediterranean gin” called Gin Mare which is additionally quite fragrant and added further botanical layers of rosemary, olives, thyme and basil.
Although the Boy’s cocktail was in no way a girlie drink, one was definitely enough for him and he began to peruse over the beer menu. Allowing a re-run of Chompchomp roulette, Will and I selected the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for him to try. Neither of us had even heard of this beer before and we were surprised to it is considered one of the top craft breweries in the USA with their Pale Ale being the second best-selling craft beer in the US.
After my energising first round I was ready for something a bit more intense. I chose the Aphrodite’s Martini which contained Isfjord gin, Antica vermouth, Aphrodite Ginger bitters and grapefruit. Moving from a West Australian gin to one distilled in the Arctic I could taste the flavour becoming pronouncedly smoother. Further interesting flavours from the bitters brought hints of chocolate, coffee and chill which rounded off perfectly with the citrus notes of the grapefruit. A masterpiece but not one for the light hearted. A few more of these and I wouldn’t be heading into to work that following morning. Well at least not in any good form! Aphrodite’s Martini will remain on Frisk’s cocktail menu for the duration of March as part of the Eat Drink Perth 2013 celebrations.
A little peckish by this point in time, we were recommended to head over to Casa Mexicana El Compa. Having experience both highlights and lowlights of Mexican food when dining locally in Vic Park we were keen to see how others fared compared to our experiences.
We started off with some appetisers or “botana”. We chose four types of dips; guacamole, arroz a la Mexicana; red rice, carrot and peas, Frijoles Charros; slow cooked black beans with chorizo and Esquites; stripped sweet corn, mayo and piquin chile. None of the dips had very strong flavours and had to be supplemented with the free sauces provided on the side to avoid being too bland.
Our next dishes came highly recommended by our vivacious waitress; some “sopes”. These are a form of Mexican street food consisting of a fried corn tortilla topped a variety of different options. We chose the vegetarian sope topped with refried beans, lettuce, sour cream and cheese. The crunchy base gave way to an interesting mix of textures but once again I felt that the flavours were a little lacking and found myself heaping more of the complimentary sauces on top to give more depth and heat.
Following on from our sope, we ordered a couple of tacos to share. Having loved our experience of taco nopales at That Little Mexican Place we were keen to order them again. These were served with refried beans, cheese and coriander. I was able to taste more of the cactus’s flavour this time; they resembled a pleasant form of bitter green beans.
Our dose of meat for the night was the pork tacos. The soft handmade taco was topped with orange marinated slow cooked pork served with cubes of apple. I had to negotiate between the apple pieces as I try to avoid it due to a high fructose content leaving just the pork and the taco. I found the pork to be quite dry and tough considering it was slow cooked something that usually results in melt in your mouth tenderness.
Although I know we will be back to Frisk soon to try a few more of their wondrous ginny cocktails, with a number of good Mexican options around town we will probably give Casa Mexican a miss.Frisk! Small Bar Northbridge 103 Francis Street, Northbridge WA 6003 | www.frisksmallbar.com.au Price: $$ ($17-20 cocktails, $8-11 beer, $2-9 small bites) Food: Unable to assess Service: 4/5 (these guys know their liquor!) Ambience: 4/5 (busy for the whole time we were there, happy non-pretentious customers) Drinks: 9/10 (using the finest ingredients and a personal flair gives amazing results) Total: 17/20
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest at Frisk Small Bar and received all drinks complimentary however she paid in full for her meal at Casa Mexicana El Compa.
This year has been such a hectic and emotional one which has flown by with the speed of light. It has been a whole year since the Boy finally managed to convince me after much persuasion to start writing a blog. After an initial few quiet months while in its fledgling state, it has now grown to be something I am proud to call my own. Many of my close friends are loyal regular readers and are always keen to be part of the Chompchomp phenomenon by joining me on my gastronomic expeditions around Perth.
My wedding expert friend Tara is one of these supportive people and she jumped at the opportunity of a night out with our respective others to Duende to celebrate my first blogiversary coupled with a bit of “wedding talk”.
It was one of those first glorious balmy spring days and I was drunk on the delightful sunshine and perhaps maybe also the bottle of Billecart the boy bought for us in the afternoon. I donned a short summery frock, slipped on some killer Diavolina platforms and bared my winter legs. Call it a stark rebuttal against any further threats of the dreaded cold weather!
We started at The Garden for a few rounds of drinks before heading over to Duende for dinner. Neither Tara nor her husband suffer from any dietary intolerance and were happy to order a selection of dishes that were suitable for me so we could all share. We started off with a bottle of gorgeously bright ruby coloured Pe Tinto Tempranillo, an organic and biodynamic wine from Portugal. We then proceeded to work our way through most of the gluten free options on the menu. Of which there were many!
The marinated olive selection contained over four different types with a broad range of textures and tastes to suit all of our palates. The chorizo had generous amount of heat in it and was thickly cut and juicy.
Patatas bravas are one of my favourite Spanish dishes. Parboiled potatoes are deep fried before being coated with a variety of spices, vinegar and red pepper. They can be served with a number of different types of sauces depending on the area of Spain and which can range from a tomato based sauce to more of an aioli style. These crispy slices of heaven had a generous paprika dusting and were seasoned with some lemony tasting vinegar. The level of spiciness was fairly mild and I would have preferred a bit more of a punch however the Boy was relieved with the relatively low heat.
The pork belly had a luscious creamy texture and literally melted into the polenta without any fatty aftertaste. The pear and plump muscatels gave a pleasant sweet note but I did my best to avoid these two fructose filled fruits.
The lamb rump was quite a surprise. I didn’t really read the menu carefully enough to be prepared for the enchanting sweet maple flavours from the fenugreek. It actually took us all a few moments to work out where the flavours came from! The rump was succulent and pink.
The pickled beetroots were hidden under a loose pile of fresh rocket, goat cheese and hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are my favourite nut, in part due to my praline addiction but additionally it brings back indulgent teenage memories of eating Nutella by the jar full. Although an interesting dish this wasn’t one of the better ones.
Initially we were a little reserved in ordering the beef cheeks after hearing negative feedback from a friend that found them to be dry. Cheeks are a cheaper cut of meat with a higher proportion of fat, sinew, connective tissue and bone in them. Provided they are cooked correctly this generally means they are more delicious, though they do require a little time and care when cooking.
We were right in taking the gamble because our cheeks were incredibly flavoured, delicately tender and we really should have ordered two serves and maybe left out the beetroot.
The sensation of squeaky haloumi always brings a smile to my face. Coupled with rich smoky undertones of eggplant puree this simple dish was a crowd pleaser.
Px vinegar is made with the sweet Pedro Ximenez grapes and was the perfect combination with gorgonzola to top the earthy mushrooms. I know I’m a little biased as I have a mushroom addiction but these slippery little nuggets packed a powerful burst of flavour and I could have eaten many more had I not already stuffed my face with everything else!
We chose 3 out of the selection of five available French and Spanish cheeses and it was quite a feat narrowing it down to three. If I wasn’t already bursting at the seams I would have said one of each! Our choice included a semi-firm cow’s cheese Mahon from Spain and two French cheeses; Roquefort, a creamy blue sheep cheese and Sainte Maure, a soft buttery goat cheese.
For sweets we ordered the doughnut balls with condensed milk ice cream. Obviously these were not for me as they are full of all the gluten in the land; a fact my companions were very content with as it meant there was all the more for them!
After reading a multitude of positive reviews on Duende over the years I cannot believe it took me this long to try them for myself. They more than exceeded my expectations and have to be the best tapas I have experienced in Perth by far. We loved it so much that we actually headed back for a quick midweek bite later that following week! And yes….we ordered more of those patatas bravas.Duende 662 Newcastle Street, Leederville 6007 | (08) 9228 0123 | http://www.duende.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Tapas share dishes range from $4-25, we share 11 dishes/4 people = stuffed!) Food: 4.5/5 (if I had more room I would have tried more!) Service: 4/5 (dishes didn’t come out too quickly, friendly and helpful) Ambience: 4.5/5 (buzzing vibe, I could nearly imagine myself back in Spain…) Drinks: 4/5 (interesting wine list, plenty of by the glass options) Total: 17/20
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.
The preceding week had been a fairly traumatic one for us both due to some distressing major family issues all finally coming to a head. To add insult to injury, we were both under the weather with the winter sniffles and as if things couldn’t get any worse I had accidentally reversed into the Boy’s car in the pitch black of the early morning. Eeeek! So I’m sure you can understand why we just wanted to put all our cares aside and do what we both enjoy most….dining out together.
The Precinct in Vic Park was opened earlier this year by Daniel Morris who is well-known for also running the highly successful Little Creatures, Balthazar and Il Lido. It was to be our first proper wine bar here in Vic Park; something many of us locals feel has been a long time coming. But despite public support they were knocked back twice for their Small Bar license and operated as a BYO wine bar for several months. Finally they have managed to secure a restaurant license and have ensured that all their staff know their wines exceedingly well. We have revisited a number of times since they have opened and I have confidence that they can always recommend a suitable choice for us both.
Initially I found that their gluten free, onion free options were quite limited for me but since then I have noticed that this has improved somewhat upon subsequent visits. The food style is quite casual and simple but seemingly executed fairly well. In usual style we started off with a couple of share dishes before our mains. The marinated olives contained a mix of black and green olives with a variety of types and intensity of flavours.
As the Boy wasn’t nearly as full of cake as I, he also ordered the whitebait (not gluten free). They were very crispy, perhaps a little too much so and came served with a beer aioli.
The Precinct’s charcuterie plate changes regularly and although we order it nearly every time we visit we have never had the same plate twice. This night we had some fresh sliced Angus beef salami, some orange chicken pâté and a pair of pork rillettes. Some cornichons and mustard were served on the side. The salami was delicate and soft with a slight salty aftertaste. Hints of citrus undertones came through beautifully in the pâté although I wish they had some gluten free bread for me to smear it onto. The pork rillettes held great shape and texture and were mildly flavoured.
Although the Boy and I love eating and discovering new foods, prior to my blogging days if we were out at one of our regular haunts, we would often both fall back on ordering our tried and tested favourites. These days I feel so guilty when doing this. I believe in order for me to accurately make an assessment for a review of a restaurant I need to sample as many of their dishes as possible. This gives me a much wider and more realistic perception of their food. This ideal has fallen out the window during our past three visits to The Precinct ever since I tried their roast chicken. It’s really really good!
To be quite honest, I’m not even one to order chicken in the first place. I figure why order something I can cook just as easily (and as well) at home? Thank goodness I forgot about this theory and tried this dish. The chicken is slow cooked (sous-vide) and so be aware it is normal for such chicken to appear slightly pink on the inside. The consistency of this chicken is like no roast chicken you have had before. The breast nearly melts under my knife and is as juicy as you would expect a thigh to be. The leg meat slips of the bone effortlessly. You can taste lemon thyme though every mouthful. It is served simply with some seasonal vegetables on the side.
The boy ordered the lamb duo which consisted of some slow cooked pulled lamb topped with a lamb cutlet. The cutlet was very meaty and although quite chargrilled on the surface was cooked beautifully inside. Walnut spaetzle is a type of Northern European style noodle made with flour and eggs, and in this case also walnuts. They almost looked like little dumplings and tasted fairly bland on their own without any of the lamb or sauce (so the Boy informed me).
The Boy kept proclaiming (again) that he didn’t want dessert! I think this past month of incessant eating has dulled his sweet tooth somewhat. Refusing to be completely defeated I ordered us the citrus chocolate salad. I don’t recommend this dish if you genuinely want a dessert as it is very light and refreshing. However seeing as I had indulged all afternoon on all the cakes, it filled my last spot in my stomach perfectly. For something more substantial I recommend their banana pie. This gluten free decadence is nothing like you expect and is more like a mousse than any pie I’ve ever had.
During the course of this evening, the Boy and I pondered over Chompchomp’s growth and development since I commenced blogging some 11 months ago. It has been such an exciting and rewarding journey so far as I continue to try and further improve both my writing style and my photography. Better still it is satisfying to watch my readership grow week by week knowing that others are (hopefully) enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it. The Boy started to consider whether he too may gain such rewards from writing his own blog and decided if he ever did, it would be about beer; a long standing passion of his.
Thus after a number of drinks, together we created the game “Chompchomp roulette”. This is where the Boy hands the beer menu over to me and I choose a random beer for him to enjoy. Relinquishing this control over his beverage choice is huge…..he is a fussy connoisseur with his beers. To make matters more interesting my knowledge of beers is very poor due to my inability to drink it. For our first play on the “wheel” I chose Delirium Nocturnum; a triple fermented Belgian ale known for its high alcohol content.
Suffice to say after finishing our drinks, his attitude on dessert came around full circle and he insisted on stopping in at Baskin and Robbins for a tub of dairy deliciousness. He defaulted to his usual favourites of cookies and cream with peppermint choc chip.
Every night that we have visited The Precinct we have always found all the staff to be energetic, friendly and very well acquainted with both their wine list and their food. On earlier visits we did find the staff lacking a bit of team work with drinks being forgotten and multiple staff coming to us to asked the same questions however, like the number of gluten free options, this is definitely improving. I figure it is better to have overattentive wait staff than ones that ignore their customers. I am keen to return for breakfast as they have slow cooked eggs on the menu but it currently looks like I’ll need to BYO gluten free bread. That I do not mind! I am so happy this is my new local!