For some reason over the last couple of years I have become accident-prone. Don’t be alarmed, there has been no major incidents, but more of a succession of annoying injuries that have prevented me from running which in turn makes me very grumpy. To name a few, there has been a handful of broken ribs, multiple occasions of recurrently broken toes, countless bumps to the head, plantar fasciitis and most recently during our Melbourne trip, a torn quadriceps. It has got to the stage that I get more of an eye roll than any sympathy from the Boy because seriously…it is never ending and according to him somewhat preventable.
For my most recent injury it was a case of me being overambitious, which again the Boy believes is a common occurrence. My stepmum invited me out on a run with her one morning. As we walked out the door my father was chanting out retorts that she doesn’t really run suggesting I was in for an easy outing.
For our short Christmas trip home to Melbourne we managed to fit in two separate Christmas family celebrations, a friend’s wedding, five days of pre and post wedding celebrations and a spot of shopping. I also successfully squeezed in a quick brunch date with Mum before she flew back to Adelaide and we returned to Perth. We met up out the front of a café called Top Paddock in Richmond on Boxing Day. There was already a reasonable queue heading out the door and round the street so I put our name down and we stood and waited outside in the sunshine. Despite a long queue, the restaurant achieved a quick table turnover and before long we were seated.
Still in a post-Christmas day food daze I could barely focus on the menu in front of me. There were a lot of gluten free options and much of the produce used was obtained direct from the producers locally in Victoria.
Reflecting back on last year I have a mixed bag of emotions. It was a roller-coaster experience of opportunity coupled with some of my darkest times in years. I expected 2014 to be a wonderful year of post–wedding bliss but sadly the Boy and I were not that lucky. A family feud that commenced in the months before our wedding resulted in my family fragmenting apart, and then to add to this heartbreak my business came very close to a similar fate. Worst of all, one of my friends was tragically killed in a horrific car accident.
Whilst trying to deal with all of this turmoil, I injected my energy into writing and saw this humble blog blossom into something even my critical mind can be proud of.
Growing up in a small family unit means that when it breaks apart, the blow is a harder one to deal with. Having less people for the impact to disperse energy leaves each individual with a harder knock. This Christmas we travelled back to Melbourne to spend time with my family however the logistics of who sees who and when became even more complicated than ever before. My sister and I non-amicably parted ways in the lead up to my wedding, not my choice, and although time has passed the wounds still remain fresh for us both. To further complicate the issue, my parents are divorced which means we would normally spend Christmas with them each individually, dining with Dad on Christmas Eve and with Mum on Christmas Day.
Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held each year in the Margaret River wine region. It has become a yearly favourite for locals and a huge drawcard for people interstate and internationally. Last year the festival clashed with some dates we had booked for a close friend’s birthday celebration in Lombok, so I thought we were only going to be able to make it down for the Friday. My usual plan of attack when attending a food festival is a crazed I-must-eat-all-the-things caper. I hate the thought that I might miss out on something delicious and end up booking back to back events like a lunatic. This approach often comes at a significant cost and thus our budget for these weekends is usually quite substantial.
Eating seasonal fruit and vegetables is easy to do living in Western Australia because the diversity of our state means we can grow a wide variety of our own produce. This year’s cherry crop was a bumper one and I have been so grateful that I could buy fresh locally grown cherries throughout the Christmas period. As both the Boy and I are predominately vegetarians at home, our house has various fruit bowls dotted around the place such that anyone visiting might think we were obsessed with food.
Cherries do contain a moderate amount of fructose so for those who suffer from fructose malabsorbtion you need to be careful with your intake. For those very sensitive, you are probably best to avoid until you have your symptoms under control. After being on a strict fructose friendly diet for a few months, I was recommended to reintroduce small amounts of fructose to assess my own personal level of tolerance. I find I can handle eating a small amount of cherries as my reaction is relatively mild provided that I do not go nuts and devour a whole bowl to myself.
There are some childhood food favourites of mine that die hard. My Mum is a talented baker and when we were kids she could effortlessly create a whole repertoire of delectable treats that never lasted long out of the oven. For school bake sales, her chocolate slice would always be the first to sell out and her melting moments were a textural delight. At Christmas time there were a number of cherished creations that would be guaranteed to fill our fridge and her pecan pie was one of those.
When I was approached by Belmont Forum to develop some recipes for Christmas I knew just had to have at least one symbolisation of my childhood and decided to adapt Mum’s recipe to be more gluten free friendly. There is nothing sugar free, vegan or paleo about these pecan pies but then I feel we all have to live a little at Christmas time. Even if it means hitting the gym a little harder in the New Year!
Whenever I am feeling overindulged, a fail safe way of getting my gut and body to recover is for me to eat a plant based vegan diet for a few days. After the incredibleness of our weekend away in Margaret River for their annual food festival Gourmet Escape, my body was crying out for some gentle eating. We burned all the candles at every end for the full weekend attending multiple degustations, an international Cabernet tasting and rubbing shoulder with some celebrity chefs. I will not deny it was all worth it.
For the following week I had time off work which gave me a chance to catch up on my long to-do list without any distractions. Wanting to pledge to adhere to a vegan, or at least vegetarian diet for most of the week I kick-started it all off with a visit to Loving Hut on Albany Highway in Victoria Park.
In a time long gone by, before I was forced to give up gluten, I was a girl who loved quiche. There used to be a deli that I drove past on my way to work and once or twice a week I would stop in there and buy a slice of their home made quiche to take to work for lunch. It was a thick based quiche filled with a variety of different ingredients which changed every day, plenty of egg and flaky pastry crust. Not exactly the pinnacle of healthy eating but something I would really look forward to each time I bought it.
Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
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.
The Boy and I were struck down with the killer Flu of the Year this month and it completely knocked the stuffing out of us. Everything became a huge effort and suffice to say life wasn’t much fun. At the tail end of our sickness we decided to cheer ourselves up and head out to the Avon Valley for the Toodyay Food Festival. Toodyay is roughly an hour’s drive from our house and when we got about half way both of us became overwhelmingly tired and nauseous.
It took about five minutes of us whingeing to each other before we realised the insanity of what we were trying to do. Walking around a food festival when I could barely stand up followed by another hours drive home sounded more like torture than enjoyment. We agreed this idea was a little ambitious and turned the car back around. As we headed home I realised we had nothing in the fridge because I had originally anticipated we would be stuffing our faces at the festival. We took a detour through Belmont and landed at Sapore Espresso.
Australia has just announced the inception of its very first Humane Food Region. Being a patriotic Western Australian I was so proud to learn that this region was the Swan Valley. The Humane Food movement is an initiative from the RSPCA to recognise businesses that are committed to using food that can be defined as animal welfare friendly. This means more than just labelling products as cage free eggs and free range pork. It translates to these animals being able to have a better quality of life and respects their need to be able to live in an environment that is more natural for them.
Whilst the obvious solution to avoid these animal’s potential suffering is to switch to eating a vegan diet, it is not realistic to expect the entire general population to make this paradigm shift. The Humane Food movement aims at achieving the highest animal welfare standards possible in these industries in order to ensure that these innocent creatures are treated kindly and live a happier life without fear and stress.
There are a small handful of restaurants dotted around Perth that I have particularly soft spot for. The mention of their name will always bring a smile to my face and propositions to return will always be met with a resounding yes. Must Wine bar is one of these venues. I have enjoyed countless meals in this classic French bistro with friends and family alike and I feel that I can always depend upon them to deliver polished service and quality dishes. Of course this meant that upon receiving an invitation to return to sample their new Bistro lunch special I was quick to schedule this lunch date in.
We had packed our bags, dropped the fur-children off at the Vet Hospital for boarding, parked the car in the long-term car park at the airport and were finally ready to check-in for our flight to Exmouth. That was until we found out the bad news; we had missed our flight. I had muddled up our departure times with that of our original booking meaning our plane was well on its way to Exmouth without us. Angry with myself for such stupidity and frustrated that there was no further flights out that day, the last thing I wanted to do was to go home to an empty cat-less house.
The Boy could see I was close to tears and in a humble attempt at diffusing the situation he suggested we go somewhere for a late breakfast and unwind. I felt the need to get away from my familiar surroundings as everything homely reminded me of my mistake. After briefly consulting Urbanspoon on my phone I randomly chose for us to visit Ingredient Tree in Wembley.
A couple of months ago I attended a very motivating seminar by Darren Rowse the founder of Problogger. This was the first time he had come to Perth to share some of the secrets of his blogging successes. Having already attended two Eat Drink Blog conferences I was unsure what I could learn in one seminar yet I came away refreshed with loads of new ideas and approaches. I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the blogging community including one of my close friends Michelle from Foodie Cravings. After the seminar finished the two of us were keen to brainstorm a few ideas and the most logical way to inspire the two of us is with food. Wanting to go somewhere nearby I suggested we try Three Five Three in Wembley as I heard on the grapevine that they have free popcorn. And that is enough to draw my attention!
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.
There are some people who come and go in your life. And then there are some people who make such an impact on you that no matter how far you are separated from them geographically, your friendship remains as strong as ever. My dear friend Melinda is easily the bravest person I have ever met. Aside from being a gorgeous person with a crazy sense of humour who is fiercely loyal to her friends AND a wonderful mother to her child, she was also born with cystic fibrosis. Over the course of her life, step by step her lung function deteriorated to the point that her home became the hospital ward located hours away from her husband and daughter on the Eastern coast of New South Wales. I was lucky enough to travel to Sydney on a business trip back in late 2011 and be able to spend every afternoon hanging out with her in the hospital whilst she sat out the long and scary wait on the transplant list. After several false alarms where the doctors called off the surgery at the last moment, she finally received her double lung transplant at a time when nearly all hope was lost.
For people who eat out regularly the Entertainment Book is an essential annual purchase. It is a book containing hundreds of discounts available for many of the popular restaurants around your chosen capital city in Australia. The books can be purchased through many worthwhile charities and a proportion of the sale price goes to the charity who is selling it. This year we bought ours from the Cancer Council of WA. One of the things I love about the Book is that not only do we get discounts from many of our favourite restaurants but it also encourages us to check out ones we wouldn’t ordinarily visit. Having worked all weekend I felt the need to make the most of the final shreds of sunshine so I flipped through our copy to look for somewhere local that was open for lunch. The Dux café is on South Terrace in Como and have actually been in the area for over ten years. It is a cosy little restaurant that has a strong local following and hosts sell-out degustations and wine dinners on a regular basis.
Prior to travelling up to the North West corner of Australia for the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional final, I wanted to touch base with the region’s designated chef Peter Manifis. Peter will be judging the four finalists in a cook off in order to select the winning dish that will represent the Gascoyne for the finale. He will then spend time closely with the regional winner mentoring and training them to give them the best chance at winning the competition.
Peter is the part owner and Executive chef for InContro, one of the fine dining local restaurants in my area. The restaurant is located on the South Perth Esplanade and overlooks the Swan River facing towards the Perth City skyline. It makes such a romantic spot for an evening meal offering uninterrupted views of the city lights twinkling away on the water. The Boy and I have celebrated many special occasions at InContro so I was excited when I found out that I was to be working with Peter. Upon meeting him I was inspired to see someone even more enthusiastic and energetic than I am. Those of you who have met me will know that this is really quite an achievement!