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.
Last year was the first time that I was selected to attend the Eat Drink Blog Australian Food Blogger’s conference and I spent three days in Adelaide eating more food than I ever thought was imaginable. And for those of you who know me you will appreciate that is a LOT of food! My blog was barely a year old at the time and I felt humbled to be in the presence of so many talented writers and photographers. Friendships that had previously only existed in cyberspace were materialised and new friendships were created. It opened my eyes to the strong sense of community and togetherness that food bloggers share and inspired me to improve my blog with the aspiration it would become something much more individualistic and personalised.
Last year I entered a Facebook competition for a food magazine that will remain unnamed and in a nail-biting, head-to head battle with my blogging friend Carly from Perth Munchkin we both tied in first place. We each won a voucher for two for “Speed Grazing” in the Swan Valley with Taste Bud Tours. As often is the case, time got the better of me and before I knew it a whole year had flown by and our voucher was nigh on its expiration date. I contacted Loris the sole operator from Taste Bud Tours to book our day out before it was too late. But what developed was very odd indeed, it turns out that my voucher was in fact a counterfeit that was never officially issued! It turns out there were a number of dubious vouchers that were handed around the magazine’s office for competition prizes and staff rewards. What a scandal!
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
This weather is seriously wild. A torrential river cascading down what was once a road isn’t exactly something I expected to see here in sunny Perth. I’ve seen it a bunch of times in Melbourne and most definitely around South-East Asia but in Perth? It’s madness I tell you. I had arranged to meet fellow blogger Whitney from dineWHITme.com for a coffee at Vans Café in Cottesloe but due to her being something of a study-work-blog-aholic she was running insanely late. I suppose I could have rescheduled but instead I decided to kill half an hour until she arrived.
It is an unusual thing for me to do; sit alone in a café sipping coffee, eating a macaron and reading the paper. I am the type of person that rarely stops still for more than a second and thus it didn’t take me long to start chatting to the person sitting next to me about food, cats and vegetarians. By the time Whit rocked up my neighbour had written herself a long list of new restaurant tips that I had suggested down onto her newspaper and she glowed like someone possessing juicy insider information.
There are some people who genuinely have the talent of listening and empathising to others. Whilst this may be a skill one can try and develop; to truly master it you actually need to be a certain type of soft and caring personality type. My Bestie is one of those people and she has always been able to centre her attention on whoever she is speaking to with incredibly genuine sincerity. Recently she has taken on a job as a carer’s consultant where she provides both individual and group support to the carers in the Esperance area. Being somewhat of a free spirit in the past, this direction and responsibility has brought out a great sense of worth and pride within her. I cannot describe how happy it makes me to know she has finally landed on her feet and found her calling.
One of the many unfortunate consequences for me if I eat gluten is the way my skin reacts. Within about eight to twelve hours of being “poisoned” I break out in an extremely itchy rash that often spreads to my face. The itch is incessant day and night breaking my sleep into fitful scratching fragments. The eczema is unsightly and I’ll confess to my vanity as it makes me feel highly self-conscious taking over a week to heal, sometimes longer.
Understandably in the months preceding our wedding I became painstakingly cautious with everything I ate. I was not ready to take any risks of accidental gluten ingestion. My sufferance paid off because on the wedding day my face was blemish free and radiant. On the return trip home from Thailand via Singapore my newly wed husband and I spent nearly four days eating non-stop. I was so relieved to finally be able to stop scrutinising everything I ate; it felt like a pressure was lifted off my shoulders. However as is often the case with me it is all-or-nothing and consequently I swung too far into complacency resulting in the obvious; gluten poisoning.
I am fortunate enough to work on the doorstep of the Swan Valley. This means that it is relatively easy to have some office meetings out and about and over the years we have developed a few favourites. Taylor’s Art and Coffee House has been one of those locations mainly due to their excellent coffee and interesting range of gluten free cakes. Their coffee is sourced from a small local company called Dark Star who roast their own imported beans on site in Northbridge. It is a full flavoured coffee that is perfect for an espresso or short mac, just how I like it.
Choosing a venue to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday was left up to me and with some winter sunshine on the forecast I suggested a trip to the valley. The Boy’s family appreciate eating big hearty meals in a casual relaxed dining atmosphere so I knew Taylor’s Art and Coffee House would fit the bill perfectly. No pretension or tiny plates of food.
This year is my second year that I have been selected as one of fourteen bloggers from around Australia to participate in Mushroom Mania. This is a campaign run by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association in the month of July every year where they join thousands of restaurants, cafes, bistros, pubs and clubs to celebrate the wondrous mushroom. They spread their message through both traditional and online media and run competitions where you can win $100 restaurant vouchers. For the past few years they have embraced food blogs as a way to communicate with foodies and recruit a handful of us to do what we do best, go out to restaurants, eat and shoot food then go home and write about it. The only catch is that we have to eat dishes containing mushrooms!
I am a very enthusiastic person and whilst most of you are well aware of my passion towards food, not all of you may know me for my devotion to my career. Nearly fifteen years have past since my graduation yet my love for being a vet grows even more as time goes on. I thrive on sharing this zeal with other like-minded colleagues. Fortunately our team of vets is filled with similar fanaticism and this creates a strong bond amongst many of us. One of our long-term employees Elaine started her career journey with us as a student many years ago and it has been a wonderful experience watching her skills and knowledge develop. It was only natural that through this mentoring process the two of us would become close friends and we have both joined each other’s wedding celebrations. It had been months since we had a chance to be able to catch up socially and agreed to meet at Gordon Street Garage, West Perth for breakfast on our day off. I have been curious to check out this hipster joint knowing it is owned by the same legends that run Duende; one of my favourite tapas bars in Perth.
For those that know me, you will agree that I’m not a calm or quiet person. Nor do I tend to run out of things to say. With some people I can sense this personality trait of mine can be a little over bearing yet with others it creates a spark for even more animated conversation. One of my dear blogging friends Amanda from Chew Town shares a similar passion for words and during one of her return trips to Perth we caught up for some brunch and a “talk-off”. We cannot agree between us who can talk more and happily settled for a tie after this round. She is always keen to try new places around Perth having left our sunny city some years ago so after throwing a few options around we agreed on Miss Kitty’s Saloon in Inglewood. I mean, anything that refers to felines in its business name has to be good!
I received a curious gift in the mail recently consisting of a bottle of fig infused balsamic vinegar. Attached to the bottle like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland was a little card inviting me to the launch of the Fig’s new winter menu at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Having never been to any of the Fig’s before the Boy and I set out on a cold blustery night with no expectations or presumptions. We were openly greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager on arrival and before long we had glasses of bubbles in hand to help set the jovial mood for the evening.
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.
The downside of having a destination wedding is that you have to prepare yourself that there will be some of your friends and family that you really want to be there but for whatever reason they will be unable to attend. The Boy and I understood this fact from the outset and were so incredibly grateful for all that were able to join us whilst remaining totally sympathetic to those who could not. One of my dearest friends Fran whom I have known since my early University days was one of those guests who unfortunately were unable to come. She only recently bought her own business and as a result of her dedication, hard work, blood, sweat and tears it was growing steadily at a rewarding rate. Upon our return to Perth, we were both keen to tally up a lunch date to share our stories and fill her in on my wedding details.
As most of my regular readers will be aware I recently married the love of my life in Phuket, Thailand where we had the most magical dream wedding I could have ever imagined. In the coming weeks I will soon be getting around to posting a review of the fabulous venue Andara coupled with some snap shots of our big day.
In order to make our wedding ceremony in Thailand a legally binding one back home in Australia, the Thai government required us to travel to Bangkok for an undetermined period of about 3-5 days prior to the wedding in Phuket to allow for translation of documents. After giving this much thought we agreed this was way too much hassle and decided to wait and get the legal stuff done once we returned to Perth. To make it more meaningful, we planned to do this on our anniversary, a date we have celebrated for nearly 15 years.
After such a magical time away in Thailand for our wedding, coming back to the humdrum reality of house work, cooking and cleaning felt like a kick in the face. To make matters worse, our maxed out cards and empty bank accounts meant we both had to return promptly back to work and start earning some cash. After a week of living like millionaires at Andara with a maid and a personal chef, the idea of returning to boring home cooked food sounded as tempting as eating my own arm.
The day before we both went back to work we begrudgingly headed off to our local greengrocer Scutti’s for our weekly food shop. It was the first time in nearly three weeks that we had to do such a chore and as we parked the car we were both looked longingly at each other for a solution. The idea of a temporary escape by delaying the shopping and heading over the road to a café for lunch sounded promising. Shoving my shopping list deep into my handbag we strolled over to Halo Espresso.
I am always a little torn having my homes in a number of places around our vast country. Having lived in Perth for most of my adult life it is obvious that this is the main place I love to call my home. However to add to this, my Mum lives in Adelaide and returning back there to the house I grew up in I get that familiar sensation like I am returning home. To complicate things further, my Dad has lived in Melbourne with my Step mum for nearly twenty years and in many ways staying with them also feels very homely! I often wonder when we eventually return back to London where the Boy and I lived for several years, would this feel like another home to me? How many places can one call home before it starts to get a bit over the top?
With only a few days to go before we fly out for our wedding in Thailand, I was feeling stressed and under the pump. I had taken the last week off work to finish of all the last-minute things however the more I got done the more I found I still had to do. Despite being so time-poor I needed some time out and openly welcomed a proposal for a quick catch up over breakfast from a close friend Tracy. She was soon to be joining us in Thailand and wanted to meet up before we left.
Last time we saw each other was during another breakfast date at Sayers Sister. Hustling for a car park in Northbridge was such a pain but our meals we enjoyed there were worth it. This time round to save time I chose somewhere more local that I had heard good things about on Foodie Craving’s blog; Gusto Food, South Perth.