After nearly sixteen years of togetherness, the Boy and I still manage to find ways to surprise each other. Gestures of love can be as small as grabbing an unrequested favourite snack at the local deli right through to spontaneous bouquets of flowers, presents and most excitingly degustations! The Boy has always claimed to not be a dessert person however over recent months I realise this is not actually the case. He certainly doesn’t like your more traditional stodgy cakes and puddings but he is more than happy to fight me spoon for spoon for something fancier and somewhat de-constructed.
For those of you living in Perth, think back to what it used to be like on a weeknight in our City five years ago. Once the day ended and the clock hit five, all the bustling daytime cafes and bars would shut and everyone would head straight home. Before long the streets of our capital would be stark empty and it was like you were standing in a ghost town. A rapidly growing city with a population of over one million people and yet we turned our backs on our own city centre!? Thankfully things didn’t stay that way forever and after some government incentives like the new small bars laws and the construction of flashy inner city apartment blocks; little sparks of life started popping up everywhere throughout the city. This energy has now burst into full flame and the memory of Perth’s once deserted streets is just an embarrassment of the past.
The second day of Eat Drink Blog 4, the Australian Food Blogger’s Conference for this year consisted of three different activities; Mastering French Pastries with Emmanuel Mollois, Unearth the Mystery of Mushrooms and finally the Cocktail and Cuisine Matching Masterclass at The Classroom, North Perth. I was excited to get my first choice of the Cocktail Class along with number of my close blogging friends.
Everyone knows about the concept of wine and food pairing. A seamless match of these two elements can take your culinary journey to great heights and many fine dining degustation menus are designed to offer this. More recently beer lovers have jumped on the pairing band wagon and some establishments now offer dishes with matched beers too.
But have you ever consider matching cocktails with food? Cocktails can bring an additional element of texture that makes wine feel comparatively one-dimensional. They allow a more tactile experience to expand on the palate and create a totally different type of adventure.
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
Degustation is a French word which can be translated into meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods focusing on the senses using high culinary art”. I have always been a huge fan of tasting menus as they allow me to taste a myriad of different dishes and leave me so insanely full that I never feel like I missed out. This style of dining is one best done slowly with good company and conversation which makes me thankful that my dear husband loves “degos” as much as I do. As you can imagine, for my recent solo trip to Barcelona I became emotionally torn; do I have a degustation in a city known for its fabulous food ON MY OWN? Is that too weird? I had read great things about Michelin starred Restaurant Nectari where their Chef Jordi Esteve offers a gluten free tasting menu complete with matching wines. Nectari opened their doors nearly five years ago and since then they have worked toward earning a well-known reputation for their service and food leading to receiving their first Michelin Star in 2013.
Only a few weeks ago the Boy and I shared a very memorable lunch at Dear Friends and it was easily one of the best meals we have had in Perth for some time. I love their philosophy of focusing on local and seasonal produce with much of their ingredients being sourced directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. On our way home that day we both decided to book in at their city restaurant Co-op Dining, East Perth to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary.
I am still nursing a broken toe therefore my ability to go running has come grinding to a complete halt. We enjoy eating out a lot and I am totally devastated that I can no longer burn it all off on the tarmac. Honestly, it won’t be long before I’m the size of a small house. In a vain attempt to mitigate the anticipated caloric excesses for our dinner we agreed to walk, or in my case shuffle, from our house to Co-op Dining. I sighed in disappointment that I cannot wear high heels, sulkily chucked a pair of flats in my LV bag and headed off in my flip-flops.
One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
I cannot believe it is nearly six months since the Boy and I tied the knot in Phuket. I still have a long backlog of blog posts from our wedding holiday that I desperately need to finish. Normally I am such a disciplined person and I think part of my procrastination is because I’m sad that it’s all over and our lives have settled back down to normal. I have finally decided to bite the bullet and plan to complete the last of my wedding trip blog posts over the next few weeks including our time in Thailand which was followed by our four day eating binge in Singapore.
Although I would prefer to experience the summer heat over the winter chills any day there is one major highlight of the winter months: the truffle season. From the very beginning of the truffle season I start searching for events, dinners and menus that feature this delicacy and have been known to get a bit obsessed. We don’t often buy voucher meals as I rarely find them to be good value but I couldn’t resist when I spotted a Groupon for a five course truffle degustation for two for only $129 at Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.
When I called up to make a booking I found that there were very few options available for voucher holders as we couldn’t book on weekends or book when there was any theatre playing. Despite calling to make our booking shortly after purchasing the voucher, I was informed rather abruptly that there were only a couple of nights available. I enquired if my meal could be adapted to be gluten free and was told there would be no problem with this it would just mean I received a different dessert.
Some of you may think I’m a bit insane throwing myself head first into the Mushroom Mania celebrations every year but I can assure you I am not the only one. In addition to a number of bloggers from around the country, there are many local chefs and food producers that join in the mushroomy celebrations. Last week I introduced you to Cris from Perth City Farm who is totally mad for his mushrooms, nurturing them carefully from spores to fruit with tenderness and loving care. And it shows; his mushrooms are packed full of flavour and were so meaty I swear they nearly tasted like chicken. For the second post in my Mushroom Mania series this year, I wanted to take it beyond just eating one or two mushrooms dishes. I wanted to find a talented chef who was willing to make me a whole mushroom themed degustation. I approached Chef Scott O’Sullivan from the award-winning Red Cabbage Food and Wine in South Perth to see if he was keen. It turns out that he and his wife are big mushroom fans and he jumped at the opportunity to join in the fun!
There are many memories I have about food from my childhood and most of those involve my father. Like many Frenchman he appreciates quality over quantity and cringes at the idea of ordering food from children’s menus. He believes that kids have just as much right to taste the finer food in life as the adults do. Growing up I was the child that was always keen to eat anything whereas my sister was exceedingly fussy. My dad embraced having a least one child with the same attitude to food as him and from a young age had me eating snails, sashimi and oysters amongst other delicacies.
I know, I know; I whinge about the winter chilliness a bit too much. You see, I’m not normally that much of a whinger unless I’m sick or I’m cold. However during winter I am generally both of those things more often than I am not. This is why I am so thankful for the wondrous fungus Tuber melanosporum, or more commonly known as the black truffle. Its short season coincides with the deepest part of winter here in Perth and is becoming a key element to my winter survival strategy.
Being right in the height of the truffle season I had already gone a bit giddy with my annual winter addiction at our truffled dinner at Divido and then even further at Clarke’s. Although I knew the Mundaring Truffle Festival was only a few days away, I figured why not bury myself even deeper into truffle glory and enjoy it to its fullest!
My soon to be parents-in-law are always complaining that they never get to spend enough time with us. Both the Boy and I have pretty hectic careers, so when we do actually have a bit of spare time, we want to spend it out and about enjoying good food and company. So when Christmas approached us last year, instead of buying his parents a gift, we offered to take them out to a fancy meal all expenses paid.
Just as we managed to lock in a weekend for our dinner, we were blessed with our brand new little niece who was born on the other side of the world in Texas! The Boy’s parents jumped on the first plane out to the States and didn’t return back for three months! We were all so envious of them as they got to meet her and we cannot wait to eventually get over there ourselves.
This blog post is the second in my series for this year’s Mushroom Mania. The month kicked off in full force commencing with my visit to the picturesque Millbrook Winery where we wined and dined until we nearly exploded. We even managed to successfully forage some wild field mushrooms from their stunning property. From there my madness for mushrooms continued and I posted my first recipe detailing how I cooked up these freshly picked delights. Don’t forget you can also go a little mushroom mad as there are over 2000 participating restaurants all over Australia serving up a variety of mushroom themed recipes. You can even win a $150 dinner voucher; see the end of this post for more.
I was lucky enough to secure three tickets to the last of the series of the Largesse dinners. These fabulous degustation evenings have formed a near cult following in Perth and are known to sell out within minutes of going on sale. So what on Earth is Largesse you ask?
Imagine the Head Chefs from six award-winning restaurants from around Perth donating their talents and time to each create one dish to contribute toward a six course extravaganza. Better still each course is then matched with exquisite wines and most importantly all of the proceeds from the evening go toward a charity of the host chef’s choosing. This year the charity of choice was The Royal Flying Doctors Service.
The six chefs are Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage Food and Wine, Kiren Mainwaring from Dear Friends, Jason Jujnovich from Divido, Stephen Clarke of Clarkes of North Beach, Todd Stuart from Petite Mort and last but most definitely not least Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amusé.
A very close friend of ours moved away from Perth to the central NSW coast nearly ten years ago to be with the love of her life. Although Facebook has allowed us to both stay in nearly daily contact, we haven’t cast eyes on each other since she left many years ago. She is one of those kindred souls that when you are lucky enough to cross paths in life you never want to let them go. There is just one thing about her that we both hate; she has cystic fibrosis. Not that in the past that ever seemed to stop her living her life to the fullest. She is by far and by large the most positive, brave and strong willed person I know, occasionally to her detriment! But there is only so much a pair of lungs can take and since the birth of her gorgeous doe-eyed daughter, her lungs have been on a slow and steady decline. She has been on the transplant list for the better part of a year now and we are all crossing every finger and toe that some beautiful brand new shiny lungs will be on her doorstep soon.
As a surprise birthday present for the boy I organised for us a relaxing two nights stay at The Richardson with their Autumn Escape package which included degustation for two in their restaurant Opus. The rooms were well appointed, they were certainly not as new and fancy as some other five star locations we have stayed at however we didn’t seem notice or care as their customer service was beyond impeccable. The minibar was very well stocked and quite fairly priced. Even the freezer was filled full of food for purchase. The Nespresso machine was a great hit with me and thankfully the room came with free selection of pods to use! We stayed in one of their deluxe rooms and despite not getting the room upgrade to one of the suites that I was wishing for, there was an adequately equipped kitchen for the stay complete with microwave oven, plates, cutlery – all the things that are often quite annoying left out of rooms and only put into the suites. Our room had glimpses of Kings Park and overlooked leafy Richardson St. Overall the hotel experience was highlighted by unfaultable excellence in customer service – something that can be a little uncommon in Perth.