I love being part of unique dining experiences. I find the excitement of the unknown combined with the knowledge that it is a once off event makes the evening feel so special. Alphabet Soup Dining is a Perth-based pop-up restaurant run by chef Melissa Palinkas who is also the Executive Chef and part owner of Young George in East Fremantle. Melissa started Alphabet Soup because she wanted to offer a quirky degustation style meal where she could let her creativity run free. She holds a dinner event once monthly in locations all around Perth and has popped up in places like Milk’d in Maylands, Cutlery Draw in Manning, Frisk! Small Bar and 399 Bar in Northbridge and most recently at Canton Lounge in the City.
I have wanted to attend an Alphabet Soup dinner for some time so when I saw that chef Melissa was holding a truffle themed dinner this was my immediate cue to book us in. I can never say no to truffle. Before booking I checked that the event could cater for gluten free and was happily assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.
The Alphabet Soup events are based around a six course meal and the menus are published online just a few days before the event. After being seated for the evening, we received a couple of rounds of “snacks” that were not on the menu as a surprise. Our first treat was a reverse crayfish truffle sushi roll using locally caught Mindarie cray. The cray meat was tender and sweet having been cooked sous vide with truffle in the bag to infuse a strong flavour.
Our second surprise snack was a basket of miso lamb ribs, also cooked sous vide in a bag with truffle. The meat slid off the bones easily and the Boy and I sat speechless, both far too busy for words as we sucked and slurped each rib until it was clean.
Our next dish was a little theatrical; sake cured ocean trout with truffle with a yuzu and coconut salad. The portions of ocean trout were suspended on a miniature hanging line with pint-size pegs. Super cute.
The trout was matched with a pomelo mojito, made with Havana 7, pink grapefruit, lime and crème de menthe. It was an interesting experience having a meal matched with not just wines, but also a collection of cocktails.
Who said eating gluten free meant you had to miss out? My truffle chicken karage was made using tapioca flour and tasted just like the real thing. Two crispy morsels were accompanied by some truffled Japanese mustard aioli topped with black sesames. This was finger licking good chicken that left no grease on my hands, my only gripe was that I was left wanting more.
My fried chicken yearning was quickly forgotten upon the arrival of the next dish; broken truffle sticky rice with a 62 degree egg. It is hard not to fall madly in love with the magical combination of slow cooked eggs and truffle, and thankfully there are a number of chefs in Perth that have caught onto this simple decadence.
It is guaranteed that this combination will never fail to make me swoon, those flavours are perfectly married in heaven. Poised with my camera in hand, my predictable squeal of delight emitted when the Boy cut into his yolk was met with his usual eye roll. I may be a little over the top with my love for yolk porn, especially after a few cocktails.
For our next dish, we enjoyed a pork and truffle dumpling served in a richly flavoured dashi broth with fresh shiitake mushrooms. To finish the dish, shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle cascaded on the surface adding a stronger hit of truffiliciousness.
I was to learn that the element of surprise is the norm for the Alphabet Soup dinners. Our next course was yet another secret item that was not found on the menu. I really love surprise dishes! A super tender, baby carrot was cooked in truffle dashi before being grilled and then served with an XO sauce ash.
Our final main course was the seared duck breast, cooked Chinese BBQ style with truffle mushrooms, edamame and of course, fresh truffle.
The duck breast was crispy thin on the outside yet remained tender pink and buttery moist on the inside.
To freshen up our palates ready for dessert, we were given a bite sized spoonful of mandarin and yuzu jelly. It was uplifting and refreshing, combining perfectly with my jazzed up G&T made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon and jasmine tea.
Our dessert brought me back to my childhood when Mum and I would go to the Adelaide Central Markets to do our weekly food shopping. My reward for being the good daughter who would come along and help her mother would always be some sort of treat we shared before going home. Most weeks we would end up walking over to Adelaide’s Chinatown precinct and finding something delicious. These were the days I was oblivious to the fact gluten was killing me, and in my ignorance I would eagerly look forward to the times we would get ourselves a steam pork bun.
For our final course with Alphabet Soup, the Chef made a special batch of gluten free truffle and pear steam buns just for me. The buns were made using potato, corn flour and rice flour giving an authentic doughy, but fluffy texture. We were given truffle honey and Anglaise sauce to drizzle lavishly over our buns. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening out with Alphabet Soup and will be watching out for her next event. There was all the right elements of entertainment, quirkiness and originality that I had hoped for with some extra surprises to boot. Chef Mel effortlessly catered for my dietary needs without making me feel like I missed out on any of the degustation experience. Thanks Melissa!
Alphabet Soup | www.alphabetsoupdining.com
Canton Bar | 532 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 8887 | www.cantonbar.com.au
The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
A few years ago researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people inherit their work ethic, or if it’s the case a lack of one, from their fathers not their mothers. This means that those who grow up with a hard-working, career focused dad will likely grow up to have similar attitudes. I am very grateful to have received Dad’s career orientated genes and it makes me so happy to see him proud of my achievements. There is however a slight downside to being so dedicated to our respective jobs, simply never having enough time in the day or in fact days in the week. It is far too easy to let the work-life balance slip off kilter and both Dad and I suffer from this.
Consequently it can be hard to pin down Dad and Tess for a weekend, especially as they live in Melbourne, but when we offered for their Christmas gift the lure of a full weekend eating truffles it was too good for them to refuse. We wanted to show them the full Truffle Kerfuffle experience so although it was a lot of eating I booked tickets for the Hunt and Harvest Dinner on the Friday, the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch on the Saturday and finally ending with Sophie Zalokar’s Truffle dinner at Foragers on the Saturday night. We booked our accommodation at one of Sophie’s beautiful chalets on the Foragers property in Pemberton.
Truffle Kerfuffle, or TK as it is known affectionately by the locals, kicked off in style on the Friday night with the Gala Opening Hunt and Harvest dinner. I loved observing the wide range in interpretation of the evening’s dress code; with some guests donning full satin evening gowns while others were dressed for comfort in jeans and sneakers. Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail to sip as we found our way to our pre-allocated tables.
For last year’s TK, I planned ahead and had organised to be seated near decent lighting for the dinner event so that my photography didn’t suffer. This year I totally forgot and my heart sunk a little when I glanced over and saw that our arranged seats were situated in one of the darkest parts of the marquee.
The Hunt and Harvest Dinner consisted of five courses matched with local wines with each course prepared by one of the weekend’s celebrity chefs. All the chefs remained very focused on utilising the local produce in the Southern Forest region, not just black truffles. As we eagerly waited for our first course, our waitress came over to the table with a big grin on her face. “The chef just whipped up a surprise dish for you all; it’s a truffle croquette!” Everyone reached in excitedly to sample the crispy delights, but alas I missed out because of course they weren’t gluten free. The Boy happily snuffled up my croquette for me.
The first official course was made by Matthew Evans from the TV series Gourmet Farmer. Matthew is a chef that shares TK’s food philosophy of eating local and seasonal. He prepared a smooth textured brandade using locally caught Redfin perch, potatoes and of course plenty of Manjimup truffle.
The second dish was by far the best of the night and yet sadly one that I failed to capture on camera. Pata Negra’s David Coomer is somewhat of a truffle expert and was one of the first Perth chefs to twig onto the bright idea of growing his own truffles. David’s marron dish was close to orgasmic and for that moment all four of us stopped talking mid-conversation to focus attentively on sucking and slurping every single last morsel of flavour from our marron shells. The marron flesh was cooked to the millisecond of perfection and was literally drowning in a decadent brown butter truffle vinaigrette topped with grated truffle. What astounded me the most with this dish was that David somehow managed to ooze aromatic truffiliciousness into every mouthful; even the enclosed meat in the marron’s legs and claws tasted like truffle. It was heaven.
As the four of us glowed in the aftermath of marron ecstasy, Dad voiced his sympathy for the chef whose dish followed next as he imagined even a wonderful dish would be bland in comparison to that marron. Scott Bridger from Bib & Tucker and May Street Larder created his dish using local buckwheat and seasonal Jerusalem artichokes, topped with milk curd, fresh apple, sprouted buckwheat, wood sorrel and truffle.
I am guessing that he included some other gluten flours to be able to make the dough so fluffy, and thus my gluten free adapted version was made using a thin buckwheat crêpe. After indulging on copious rich truffle butter from the marron, I actually welcomed the lighter flavours.
Chef Kenny McHardy recently moved up to Perth from Albany and soon will be opening his new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen in Fremantle. He opted for a more hearty styled dish of a pork pithivier which is sort of a French equivalent of a meat pie but with a fluffy puff pastry. It was served with heirloom pumpkin and some local Tangletoe organic cider made at Mountford Wines in Pemberton.
Fluffy textures in gluten free pastry is a hard creation to prepare and Chef Kenny made the wise decision to not to ruin the dish with a lackluster gluten free pastry alternative. Instead, I received two buttery soft pork rillettes for my gluten free alternative. As many of my readers may recall, pork is not generally my first protein choice. But offer me pork lavished with luscious truffle and I can easily be swayed!
To finish off the evening, we enjoyed dessert made by Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. Sophie bravely chose to made her dish truffle-less and used another culinary delicacy locally grown in the Southern Forests region; native finger limes. She prepared a smooth lemon souffle and topped it with adorable little pearls of Pemberton finger lime. I love how this fruit has been marketed as “citrus caviar”, it is such an appealing concept.
We commenced our next morning at the Truffle & Wine Co to go on a truffle hunt. My stepmum Tess is a huge animal lover like I am, with a particular weakness for Labradors. We got to meet the truffle dog Scrappy, a black Lab whose gentle nature and large brown eyes won everyone’s hearts especially Tess’s.
Not only is Scrappy trained to detect where truffles are growing under the ground, but she can also determine which truffles are ripe and therefore ready for harvest while leaving the immature truffles to continue to grow.
Using specific head gestures Scrappy was able to indicate to her trainer if there was more than one truffle in a single location and if they were growing together in a cluster or spaced a distance apart. Such a clever dog!
After a few cuddles with Scrappy, we returned to Fonty’s pool just in time for the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch. It was going to be a big day of non-stop eating so I had skipped breakfast in preparation and was ready with a very healthy appetite.
In a similar fashion to the dinner, our lunch was focused around showcasing some of the Southern Forest’s wonderful local produce with the black truffle taking centre stage. Each course was matched with local regional wines.
Our entree was prepared by Aaron Carr, the Executive Chef at Vasse Felix in Margaret River who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year in the WA Good Food Guide. Using the locally farmed Blue Ridge marron, he paired it with sweet pear, cauliflower and truffle.
For the main course Chef Luke Burgess slow cooked some finger licking beef short ribs. The short ribs were served shared style in the centre table with each guest receiving their own plate of smoked quince and kohl rabi salad to pair with the tender beef.
The meal was rounded off nicely with dessert by Tom Randolph from No. 4 Blake Street. Savoury and sweet flavours were married with a truffle and Jerusalem artichoke custard topped with chocolate consommé and shards of salted chocolate.
After Saturday’s lunch we opted to head home from TK early as I was still suffering from my stupid back injury and needed some time out with my feet up to ease the pain. We had the Foragers Truffle Kerfuffle Seasonal Dinner that evening and I wanted to be able to last the distance. Foragers Field Kitchen holds sell-out seasonal dinners most Saturday nights which consist of a set menu served in a shared style. They have a BYO license.
Sophie Zalokar is a passionate advocate for the Southern Forest region and sources quality local produce to use in her kitchen as much as possible. Her cooking style is best described as authentic country cooking and nearly everything she prepares is made from scratch. For our first course, we started with a white bean and parmesan soup topped with truffle cream and fresh chervil. It was a crisp, cold night out and this shot of warmth was just what I needed.
For our second course we enjoyed some wood-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sprout hearts. I haven’t tried them wood roasted before, it seems to be more popular to served them pureed rather than whole. They have a distinct but subtle sweetness to them which I have since learnt is due to the fructose content, something to note if you have fructose malabsoprtion. Toasted buckwheat and hazelnuts added a wonderful textural element to the dish. Some labna, or fresh yoghurt cheese, was made from Bannister Downs milk and of course everything was lavished with plenty of fresh truffle.
Whilst I’m certainly not a chef, it seems to me that rabbit can be a very temperamental meat to prepare. I often find it to be dry and tough unless it is served in some sort of slow cooked stew. Forager’s cider braised rabbit was none of those things and was so delicately tender and moist. It was served with celeriac cream, porcini juice, fresh truffle and Brussels sprout leaves.
I was thankful that our dessert was lovely and light as we had been solidly eating for most of the day. The smooth honey custard sat gently in my overly full belly and the persimmon and pumpkin seed salad was a refreshing way to finish a perfect meal.
We were yet to explore much of the Truffle Kerfuffle Farmers Market so we headed back on the Sunday morning as fresh as daisies to check it out.
There was an abundance of local food and wine to try with a smaller selection of hot food stalls to purchase more substantial meals. What sparked the Boy’s attention the most were the truffle inoculated trees available for sale and although we don’t have a property in Manjimup he showed great interest in getting one. Dad being the always generous man stopped in at the stall and bought one for his only son-in-law.
After the previous day’s feasting we were happy for a light lunch and while Dad and Tess wandered the Market tasting wines the Boy and I sat on the grass and ate some heartwarming market food. We had filled our bags with purchases of local produce to bring home including fresh truffles, local potatoes and an enormous spaghetti squash.
That evening back in our chalet, we had the most simple but exquisite meal of mashed potato with truffle butter and fresh truffle. It was as heavenly as all the other dishes we devoured over the three days, except of course for David Coomer’s marron. Now THAT was a one in a lifetime moment. It is always sad moment when TK is over, but the four of us are already counting down the days until next year’s truffle feasting. It looks like it might be an annual event for Dad and Tess too now!
Truffle Kerfuffle is held on the last weekend of June every year at Fonty’s Pool in Manjimup. Refer to their website www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au for more details
Disclaimer: Chompchomp purchased the tickets to the Hunt and Harvest dinner, Food Bowl lunch, Truffle Hunts and Winter Seasonal Dinner at Foragers at her own expense. She was grateful to receive a media pack with free passes, wine glasses and transportation to events for all her family from Offshoot Creative.
Pata Negra | 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands WA 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au
Bib & Tucker |18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
May Street Larder | Shop 23, 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle WA 6158 | www.maystreetlarder.com.au
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen | Shop 6/7,128-134 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160 | Facebook
Sophie Budd, Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Vasse Felix | Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Foragers | Lot 1 Roberts Road, Pemberton WAZ 6260 | (08) 9776 1580 | www.foragers.com.au
Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8177 | www.colonialbrewingco.com.au
Kent Street Deli | Unit 3/1 Kent Road, Rockingham WA 6168 | (08) 9528 5335 | www.kentstreetdeli.com.au
Lady Marmalade | Donnybrook, WA | 0417 415 073 | Facebook
Taste of Perth 2015 proved that this is a city of passionate and dedicated gourmands. Over 15,000 people braved strong winds and horizontal rain to enjoy icon dishes from our city’s best restaurants served up by the Head Chefs themselves.
It was a very wet weekend with only a brief few hours of sunshine during the Friday lunch session which was fortunately the session that I attended! The festival is divided into lunch and dinner sessions which allows you four hours to eat, drink and mingle with friends. Food is purchased using “Crowns” which one Crown equally the value of $1.
I was joined by my fellow blogging friends who, like me, know the importance of having a “Taste of Perth Game Plan”. Prior to attending each of us had read the full menu, decided on our chosen dishes and could visualise the basic map layout in our heads. This is serious business!
The lack of indication for the gluten free dishes on the menu was a slight source of frustration for me. Some stalls can develop reasonable sized queues and no one wants to wait in line to find out they cannot order anything. Not wanting my frustration to turn into disappointment, I created a Plan B in the case that my desired dishes were glutenised. Yes that is a word.
After a few snacks in the corporate lounge, we kicked off our designer degustation at Nobu with their icon dish of 9+ Wagyu Carpaccio served with a slightly gooey quail egg and a kick of aji amarillo aioli. My dish was gluten free adapted with the omission of soy-salt. Whilst some may baulk at the price to portion ratio of this dish, I assure you that it would take just one mouthful of that buttery meat to liquefy on your tongue to make you understand what real Wagyu is.
Nobu’s spicy aji amarillo aioli lingered on our palates making the perfect introduction to head to El Público’s stall for some Mexican. I had already had the pleasure of tasting their dishes at the sneak preview a few weeks back so I looking forward to more.
I loved the sweet freshness of the street corn charred and braised served with crema, chili, lime & fresh cheese.
Later that night on the evening session, the Boy was desperate to try El Público’s icon dish called the “Flavours of Mexico” as he hasn’t had the chance to chow down bugs since we last visited Thailand. The fried crickets were served with two shots of throat clearing mezcal.
Bib & Tucker had a few gluten free options on offer. The colourful rosella flower cured kingfish with beetroot, finger limes and beach herbs injected much needed vibrancy to the afternoon as the sun began to slink behind the rain clouds.
Their icon dish was Flinders Island wallaby shank served with textured puffed wild rice and pickled grape agrodolce. Head Chef Scott Bridger demonstrated how to prepare this dish in the Electrolux Taste Theatre where the aromas of his cooking only served to increase our appetites even more.
Moving on from Bib & Tucker, I couldn’t stop myself nabbing a bite sized serve of Modo Mio’s vitello tonnato as it is one of my favourite dishes from their restaurant. The tender, thinly sliced veal was drizzled generously with tuna and caper mayo, topped with a quail egg and finished with a splash of truffle oil. However it really was not much more than a mouthful.
As we all looked at our watches, we realised we were running out of time! I was feeling rather content and happily followed the consensus of the group to head to Asado.
I quickly deduced that Asado is the place to be if you are a meat lover. I stood in a trance for more than a few minutes watching the chefs meticulously cook thick chunks of sizzling marbled meat on the BBQ grill.
Eventually I broke away my gaze, presumably because my eyes were tearing from all the smoke and decided I had eaten enough to satisfy my savoury tastebuds. I was ready for a sugar hit.
I was in luck as Asado was one of the few stalls offering a dessert option. Their burnt banana dish was not gluten free as it came with a butter biscuit base. I was grateful that the chefs were happy to make me a special adapted versio.
The banana was caramelised with a satisfying crunchy layer but I have to say it was the dulce de leche that won me over. I know salted caramel is starting to be a bit old hat, but I still love it!
With the day nearly over and my stomach nearly overflowing into my oesophagus, I accepted that if I bought any more food it would need to come home in a doggy bag. Of course that wasn’t a problem, and with a surprisingly quick step for someone so full I managed to whisk over to Bistro Guillaume.
Last year Bistro Guillaume’s massive “macaron burger”, or macaroon as it was inaccurately called, was enough to out-macaron even me! This year it was replaced with a more digestable boxed “Duo” of salted caramel and strawberry macarons although they were still quite a decent size. Sugar high here we come!
As we were leaving Taste of Perth, we walked past the Honeycake stall and I noticed a little “gluten free available” sign on their table. I have attempted to try tasting the Honeycake for months and months after my dear friend Michelle from Foodie Cravings told me there is a gluten free option. Sadly every time I try to buy one they have sold out….but not this time! Oh my, I can now understand what Michelle was on about because it really is worth the hype!
Taste of Perth runs every year in May and brings out talent from our top restaurants all in one location. There are also many other wine and food producer stalls to visit, entertainment and VIP lounges for those wanting something a bit more special. Whilst it isn’t the cheapest food festival on the circuit it is one that I always thoroughly enjoy.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest at Taste of Perth and Electrolux. Some of her dishes were provided free of charge and some she purchased herself.
Nobu | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.noburestaurants.com/perth
El Público | 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au
Bib & Tucker | 18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
Modo Mio | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/modo-mio/about
Asado | 34 Saint Quentin Avenue, Claremont WA 6010 | (08) 6424 9877 | asado.com.au
Bistro Guillaume | Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | (08) 9362 7551 | www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au
The Honeycake | Shop 40, Fremantle Markets, Henderson Street, Fremantle WA 6959 | www.thehoneycake.com.au
I recently traveled to Tasmania on a two-week working holiday to help out at a colleague’s cat-only veterinary clinic. The Australia Day long weekend was conveniently embedded in the middle of my trip and so the Boy flew over on the Friday to join me. I was getting paid holiday pay from my work in addition to my locum wage from the cat clinic so I decided to splurge and booked us two nights accommodation at the luxury resort Saffire Freycinet on the east coast of Tasmania.
Saffire Freycinet is a two and a half hour drive north of Hobart through some very picturesque landscapes. The road is windy and undulating making it slow going but is enjoyable to do at a leisurely pace. The Freycinet peninsula is a stunning part of Tasmania with much of this area now turned into a National Park to preserve its natural beauty. The landscape is made of massive eroded mountains of granite known as The Hazards, Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet. These mountains are thought to be over 400 million years old and are home to many native wildlife creatures.
The climate is some of the mildest in Tasmania with temperatures often much warmer than the rest of the island. We left the torrential rain, wind and cold temperatures behind us in Hobart to enjoy some much needed sunshine and clear skies.
Saffire offer all-inclusive rates at their ultra-private location where we found our every whim catered for. We originally booked a Luxury Suite but were upgraded on arrival to a Signature Suite which contained all the features of the Luxury Suites but with the addition of a larger living space, a relaxing deck lounge and a bathroom overlooking Great Oyster Bay.
It is a wise plan to arrive at Saffire with an empty stomach as all the meals are included; expect a three course breakfast and lunch followed by a seven course degustation for dinner every day. Yes, you heard me, a dego every day. It was hard going. 😉
Lunch and breakfast is served in Palate restaurant which offers stunning views of the Hazards. It was such a treat to head there early for dinner and watch the sun slowly set over the mountains.
The menu for each evening’s degustation is changed daily with the chef focusing strongly on using local and seasonal produce.
A bottomless minibar and alcoholic beverages from a selected list also came at no extra charge. I swear we both gained a number of kilograms in our three day stay. My dietary requirements were very well attended to right down to the lovely touch of gluten free afternoon tea being delivered to our room each day.
The staff form a very well-polished team as the number of guests at the resort is quite small allowing for very individualised and personal treatment to everyone. It is easy to see they all really loved their jobs and there wasn’t a single staff member who didn’t gush over their love for the region.
There are a number of activities to do at the resort with many of them inclusive at no extra charge; such as archery, escorted hikes, oyster farm tours and more. There are also a number of signature experiences, however these came at an additional cost.
One evening we chose to go on the signature Sunset Cruise on one of Saffire’s own boats. Our captain negotiated us through a few rough seas to find us a quiet cove where he cracked out the Tasmanian sparkling wine to share around along with oysters and smoked salmon. He also had a pre-packed separate collection of gluten free snacks for me to enjoy.
Our favourite activity was the oyster farm tour. The Boy and I donned some funky waders and walked out into the water to see up close how oysters are grown.
Our guide showed us expertly how to shuck an oyster and then proceeded to shuck a bunch of them plucked straight from the sea. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
For those wanting to burn off some of your increased calorie intake, there are numerous hikes to do either escorted or alone through the mountains.
Saffire also have an open-range Tasmanian Devil enclosure where we got to see the resident group of devils feed and interact with other.
These devils originally formed part of a breeding colony and have since retired to live out their days in the luxury of Saffire’s massive natural enclosure.
It was a sad moment checking out of our room at Saffire as this is a place that I never wanted to leave. Every single moment felt like total luxury although I dare say we ate way too much food!
Our Saffire package included daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, a very well stocked complimentary mini bar and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Our room had free Wi-Fi internet access and we were given a credit of $150 for the Spa. Our luxury suite cost $1800 per night, and we were upgraded to a Signature suite $2100 at no cost.
Saffire Freycinet | 2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Tasmania 7215 | www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
For those of you that missed out on experiencing the glorious feast at Taste of Perth last year, my best advice for you is not to miss out again. Taste Festivals are one of the world’s greatest restaurant festivals and are held in a number of locations all around the world including Paris, London, Sydney and Moscow.
Taste of Perth made its début last year attracting over 16,000 hungry punters over the three days. This year’s Taste festival will be held from the 15th to the 17th of May at Langley Park and it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be even better than last year.
At Taste of Perth, you will be able to create your own designer degustation as many of Perth’s top restaurants will be participating in the event. The 2015 line-up will include some of my favourite venues such as Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume, Bib & Tucker, Nobu, Next Door at No4, Print Hall, El Público and more.
To give an insight into what to expect this year at Taste, I was invited to attend “Taste on Tour”; a fun-filled roving dinner where I joined a small group of bloggers to visit three of the participating restaurants and sample some dishes on the Taste of Perth ’15 menu.
Our first venue for the evening was El Público in Highgate. El Público will have four dishes on offer at Taste, and I am happy to say all of them will be gluten free!
We started off with tasting the pork belly taco served with charred pineapple, salsa picante and chicharon. The taco was topped with shreds of pork crackling giving it a wonderful play on textures with a lot of depth of flavour.
The braised street corn dish will be a filling option for vegetarians and was served with cream, fresh cheese chill and lime.
For those festival goers needing something a bit meaty, El Público will also be serving their uber soft twice cooked lamb ribs with sesame, cucumber & lime.
After it’s sell out popularity last year, El Público will be bringing back their icon dish called “Flavours of Mexico”. This dish consists of a serve of their renowned fried crickets alongside two shots of village mescal.
Our next stop was Lalla Rookh in the CBD and to everyone’s surprise and delight a tram pulls up in front of El Público to transport us to our next destination!! We piled into the tram filled with giggles while our tram driver proceeded to get some pop music cranking loudly. So much fun!
Before long we arrived at Lalla Rookh, my favourite Italian restaurant in Perth. I love how Head Chef Joel Valvasori has a strong focus on using West Australian produce and am grateful that he will always effortlessly cater for me despite my dietary requirements meaning I never feel like I miss out.
Lalla will be serving their braised lamb shank as their icon dish for Taste this year. This dish is available by pre-order from the restaurant and has a level of cult popularity amongst the regulars.
It will be served with organic polenta made in a more traditional way with a texture that is almost like a light bread. Perfect for dunking in all that luscious, sweet lamby sauce.
After nearly exploding with full stomachs, we were greeted by our chirpy tram driver out the front of Lalla Rookh to transport us onwards to our final Taste on Tour location; Next Door @ No4 in North Perth. Despite protests from many of us of being way too full to be able eat anymore, it never ceases to amaze me how food bloggers can continue to push the boat out and keep eating!
No 4 Blake Street’s Head Chef Tom Randolph is passionate about using seasonal and local produce and will source many of his ingredients directly from the small-scale producers themselves.
The two gluten free options on No4’s Taste of Perth menu this year will be their signature No4 risotto and a 45 day dry aged beef. The risotto is a vegetarian option made with cauliflower, cocoa and topped with burnt rice crisps.
The organic grass-fed beef was tender enough to cut with a fork and was served with a fried egg, crispy kale and sprinkling of dukkha.
No4 will also return one of their sell out dishes to the menu this year; their Valrhona Chocolate Garden. This pot of chocolate decadence contains salted caramel, chunks of chewy peanut dacquoise and sandalwood rocks but is sadly not gluten free due to the chocolate soil.
I think the chef may have seen a jealous glint in my eye as I watched everyone’s eyes roll in ecstasy devouring their Gardens. Before long I was presented with a gluten free adapted version, sans soil but topped with shards of salted caramel chocolate instead. Thank you chef!
I will be giving away TWO double passes to Taste of Perth on my Facebook page over the next week valued $72 each.
To enter simply tell me which is your favourite restaurant attending Taste of Perth this year and why they are your favourite. You can write your answer in the comments section below or alternatively head to my Facebook Page.
The winners will be selected by the Boy and will be based on the most interesting and original answers.
Entries close Sunday 10th May 2015. This competition is open to residents of Australia only.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp attended Taste on Tour as a guest of Taste Festivals and 3am Thoughts.
el PÚBLICO | 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au
Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House | Lower Ground, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 7077 | www.lallarookh.com.au
Next Door @ No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels! 😉
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
We booked a Luxury Package for two nights in a waterfront suite. Our package included breakfast and dinner for both nights and some spa treatments to enjoy together.
Our room overlooked the lagoon and the shores of Lake Daylesford and facilitated complete relaxation with a very comfortable king sized bed, sofa and armchairs. There were a pair of sunbeds out on our deck however the weather was scorching hot and no sane person would have basked in that heat.
There was a bottle of chilled complimentary champagne ready for us on arrival. The minibar was stocked with a small number of locally sourced drinks and nibbles, Salus Spa’s own sparkling mineral water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Unlike some of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, the minibar was not included as part of our stay. Considering the price was comparative with other Lodges, it would have been a nice touch if it was.
The bathroom was spacious with a dual shower, double spa bath and heated bathroom floors. There was a modest sized flat screen television, an iPod docking station to play our tunes and free in room Wi-Fi access.
Every evening between 6 pm to 8.30 pm cocktails are served in the Argyle Library along with some complementary canapés. I was hoping that the canapés would keep coming for as long as we ordered drinks however we quickly learnt that you get one round of delicious canapés and then that is it.
I am guessing they expect you to move through into the restaurant at that point. Nobody ever seems to understand that our appetites are not those of normal people!
After enjoying a round of nibbles and a few more rounds of Campari spritzers, we headed out for a walk around the Lake before returning to our suite for dinner. There are two Lakes to walk around each taking less than half an hour on a shaded and pretty path.
Our package included an in-room supper for two on the first evening with two glasses of house wine. We weren’t expecting such a feast to arrive and this seemed to make up for the feeling of wanting more of those canapés earlier on.
Everything was adapted to be gluten free including gluten free bread and crackers. There was creamy pea soup, an antipasto platter, a cheese platter and plate of fresh fruit.
Breakfast is included for both mornings of our stay and consisted of a continental buffet in addition to a choice of a main dish from their a la carte menu.
The buffet had an array of freshly baked pastries, sliced meats and cheeses with a few gluten free and vegetarian options.
For my main dish I ordered the house baked beans with goats cheese, wilted spinach and poached eggs on gluten free toast.
The beans had wonderful depth of flavour but sadly the gluten free toast let the dish down being quite tasteless and crumbly in texture.
We had minimal plans for our weekend, in fact I was hoping to do very little other than relax but as is always the case with us we cannot help but do a little exploring. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates each Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm and contains a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of antique bric-a-brac, locally grown produce, clothing and crafts. We already had suitcase filled with loot from Christmas so I made do with purchasing a refreshing beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Oh, and I bought a book about cats
We also visited Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm. It was a melting 40 degrees Celsius and we lingered only long enough to smell the fragrant flowers, scull a lavender lemonade in the shade and then retreat back to our air-conditioned car.
For our second evening at Lake House, our package included an eight course degustation with matched wines in the restaurant. We started the evening off again in the Library with some canapés before taking a seat by one of the large windows to watch the reflections of the setting sun across the Lake.
Our degustation took us on a journey using local seasonal food some of which is harvested from their own gardens. This is a restaurant that has repeatedly earned two hats and as our dishes started to roll out I began to see why.
Our amuse bouche consisted of a mouthful of veal tartare and mojama which is a salt cured tuna. This was served with some bonito aioli on a nori crisp so light it dissolved on the tongue like a wafer.
Our second course of spanner crab and white fish sashimi had a Nobu-esque twist with the addition of jalapenos and an elegant dollop of green gazpacho. Some tapioca pearls on the side added another element of texture.
The next course was a pasta dish which meant I received something different in replacement. The Boy’s pasta was a bug agnolotti, which are similar to ravioli. It was served with house made kimchi butter emulsion and crisp shallots.
My gluten free alternative was some mixed tempura served with the kimchi. I was so chuffed that they could do the tempura gluten free as this is so commonly off the menu for me. It was crispy and light and the kimchi had a decent kick to it.
The next dish was inspired by Chef Alla’s Russian heritage and we were told that a variation of this dish is always on the menu. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy and features in many Russian dishes.
The eel was sourced from the Victoria based Skipton eel factory. Wrapped in pancetta the smoked eel was paired with some locally grown organic beets and served alongside a toothsome mustard crème fraiche. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
The next dish was some addictive little morsels of tempura quail wrapped in nori.
They were accompanied by dollops of umeboshi puree, coriander puree, wasabi mayonnaise and the cutest coriander flowers.
Our final main dish was locally sourced pasture fed beef; cooked carefully and slowly such that it had the consistency of melting butter. The hearty flavours of the beef had an added surprise of some chilli and togarashi for an interesting kick.
Pre-dessert consisted of a platter named “Playtime”. This consisted of a number of little palate cleansers including a strawberry compote with white chocolate sorbet and strawberry granita, a “plum shot” and blackcurrant marshmallow lollipops.
For our final course, the Boy and I had different dishes as mine had to be adapted to be gluten free. The Boy’s “Summer Ramble” was a garden of gorgeous components and I was gutted there was no more natural light for a stunning photo. His dish had pistachio sponge, almond praline, almond milk pannacotta, honey ice cream, almond tuille chocolate bark berries AND honey comb….all on one plate. It looked heavenly and despite all the different elements it didn’t taste over complicated or flamboyant.
I could have nearly developed a case of food envy if it wasn’t for my rich peanut butter parfait. It was topped with sesame ganache, peanut praline and sesame ice cream. A perfectly balanced blob of lemon curd added a hint of acidity and a black sesame tuille gave it some crunch and texture.
We had such a relaxing stay at Lake House in Daylesford giving the perfect amount of “us” time that we needed together. Having stayed in a number of Luxury Lodges around Australia now, I would have liked to have seen a bit more luxury in our rooms to justify the room price and feel that in these sort of “never want to leave” styled lodges a complementary minibar can encourage you to really enjoy your accommodation more.
We found the Spa to be of a high quality and actually went back for a second massage in the couple’s room. The restaurant is well deserved of its Good Food Guide Hats and is worth a visit even without a stay in the Lodge. Their wine list is enough to impress my father which is saying something and I heart how they focus on local and seasonal produce.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp and the Boy paid in full for a Lake House Luxury Package for $1200/night. This package included two night accommodation in a Waterfront Suite, light supper for the first evening and a degustation with matched wine on the second night, a full breakfast each morning and a massage and facial at Salus Spa.
4 King Street, Daylesford, Victoria 3460 | www.lakehouse.com.au
Revolving restaurants hit widespread popularity back in the seventies and I even remember as a child growing up in the eighties the whole concept still sounded super modern and space aged. These days many of them around the world have closed after bearing badges of being labelled tourist traps with high prices and poor quality food.
C Restaurant is Perth’s only revolving restaurant and is situated up on level 33 of the St Martins Tower in the heart of the CBD. Our first visit to this restaurant was many moons ago back when it was called Hilite 33 for one of my very first dates with the Boy.
Back in those days the BankWest building was the only tall skyscraper in the city and it never ceases to amaze me how much our city has grown. Whilst the Boy and I have fond memories of our earlier meals dining there in the late nineties, we eventually stopped going as we found their attention to detail and quality of food started to decline.
I recently received an invitation to return to C Restaurant to try their new Spring menu. I was initially reluctant to accept this offer given our last few meals there but then I reminded myself that that was indeed some time ago.
Unlike the much higher priced weekend menu, C Restaurant’s mid-week menu offers a four course meal for the relatively bargain price of $99. There were a number of options available including vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. How often do you see a dedicated vegan menu in a fine dining venue?
For those who have never seen Perth from the heights of one of our sky scrapers, a visit to C Restaurant is justified by just the view alone. Over a ninety minute period you will get a full 360 degree view of our beautiful city. I recommend to come for an early dinner so you can see one rotation with daylight and one with the night lights.
To my relief and somewhat surprise the food at C was more than just good. It was enough of a reason to visit even without the view. Each dish was plated with a number of different components with the Boy’s Wagyu and my lamb both being done “two ways” with a number of different sauces spotted around the plate.
This technique always risks appearing over complicated if the flavours are not balanced well but the chef pulled it off. Better still a lot of the menu focused on utilising some brilliant West Australian produce including my favourite dish for the night, a delicate soft marron with pillows of velvety scallops and an organic citrus quinoa salad.
Toward the end of the night in a true Martine moment I managed to drop my phone on top of my chestnut meringue before managing to take a reasonable photo.
For a split second the perfectionist in me was tempted to send it back in order to get a better shot before my logic took over. Suffice to say, smashed meringue tastes just as good as intact versions.
The Boy was happy to follow my specific request to order himself the chocolate fondant for his dessert. Whilst I cannot get to enjoy the taste of such a treat due to all that evil gluten, just being able to watch him cut into its centre and squeal as the molten chocolate oozes out was enough to excite me.
I think the concept of a revolving restaurant has won back some ground with me; whilst there were a number of tourists dining around us there wasn’t a vibe of this restaurant being exclusive designed for such a market. We found the service to be attentive without being obtrusive, and the food was more than a pleasant surprise.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of C Restaurant receiving the offer of a meal with one beverage for her and the Boy free of charge. My opinion are my own and I have not embellished or enhanced the story. And yes, I did actually drop my iPhone onto my dessert and snap it in half. C Restaurant Level 33, 44 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9220 8333 | crestaurant.com.au
As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Within minutes of arriving at Saint Crispin, the four of us agreed on the tasting menu choosing the five courses for $100. A bargain by Perth price standards I have to say. To commence the gastronomic journey, our amuse bouche for the evening were cute fluffy green olive and cocoa nib Madeleines. They were served with a slightly sweet, smoked hay foam with dehydrated black olive grated on top.
Our first course was presented immaculately; a lightly seared chunk of yellowfin tuna still dark pink in the centre which dissolved on contact with my tongue. It was served with some anise braised fennel, mussels and poached calamari.
Perched on top of the tuna was a snap-crackle-and-pop squid ink and tapioca cracker. A carefully placed dollop of rocket emulsion added a subtle pepperiness to balance the flavours.
Fresh seasonal ingredients continued to feature heavily on the menu with our next dish focusing on new season asparagus. With some asparagus blanched and some shaved raw they were dressed in an asparagus gazpacho and served with an unusual roasted parmesan custard. The custard was as smooth as silk and contained flaked almonds for added crunch.
As each dish was as delicately perfect as the next, I could feel a sense of warm pride across the table. Some of them follow the blog and know very well that I enjoy eating damn fine food! Seeing me impressed and highly satisfied with our meal so far meant their delegated job of choosing a restaurant was a job well done.
Our third course was the Atlantic salmon served with a parsley risotto. The salmon was cooked sous-vide giving it a wondrous buttery texture. Fresh spring vegetables including zucchini, broad beans and peas mixed into the creamy risotto along with some fresh prawns.
Unlike many of my blogging foodie friends, I am not really a pork lover. Whilst I would never refuse food that I wasn’t allergic to, I would never actively chose to order pork for myself off the menu. Additionally I feel it needs to be jaw-droppingly amazing for me to enjoy it to any large degree.
For our fourth course, we were served a crispy pork jowl with miso marinated cubes of pork neck. Was this going to be a hit or a miss for this ambivalent pork eater? Well a winner it was, such to the point that I even offered to finish off the tooth-chipping crackling from my friend sitting next to me. I shared it with the others of course 😉
The pork accompanied an heirloom carrot salad with star anise and finished with a white soy and sesame gel. It was absolutely heavenly.
I didn’t want the magic to end but as each course was a reasonably substantial size for a tasting menu I was starting running out of room. Our dessert was the perfect finisher.
Smooth mango creamoux was served with small chunks of diced mango, caramelised milk crumble yoghurt pebbles and a scoop of jasmine ice cream. With all that mango, this was not exactly a fructose friendly dessert but I was prepared with glucose tablets that I chugged back on the drive back to Dad’s apartment. Some things are worth a belly ache for and this was one of them.
We ended the night with some house made passionfruit jubes. A little bit salty and a little bit sour, I wasn’t expecting such a flavour punch from these innocent little cubes.
Saint Crispin is a class act, following all the principles in modern dining that I love. Lots of small tasting dishes, fresh seasonal and local produce, and photogenic food presentation. To add to all this, the staff were relaxed and knowledgeable without any pretension. If only it wasn’t so far from Perth!Disclaimer: Despite Chompchomp carrying the flag for the cats of Australia, her own two feline fur-children are yet to earn their keep and help fund her valiant efforts to improve the health and welfare of cats. Consequently this meal was funded for by herself but she has been assured it is only a matter of time before the two lads start bringing home the cash. In fact, her youngest fur-son Eddie has already been attaining some cameo appearances on Channel 7! 😉
300 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC 3066 | (03) 9419 2202 | www.saintcrispin.com.au
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
In my usual extravagant style, I poo-pooed the idea of just going to a restaurant and eating one or two mushroom dishes and approached a couple of Perth’s top chefs to hit me up with a specifically designed Mushroom Mania degustation. I started off my journey at the new Highgate restaurant St Michael 6003 where we were taken on a journey of crackles and pops with a few surprises.
For my second part of this journey, I contacted Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse to see if he was keen to participate. Amusé is by far and by large the best fine dining restaurant in Perth and this is proven by their succession of accolades won year after year. There is a significant waiting list to get a table but believe me it is worth the wait. We have visited Amuse several times over the years however this was to be the first time since I started blogging. Despite there being many years between visits, I can always be assured that my dietary requirements are not only just catered for, but that they remember them without me having to remind them. The level of attention to detail and customer service is quite out of this world and every visit we have been made to feel like we are special, even when I wasn’t wielding a heavy camera.
Our evening began as is always the custom at Amusé with a few rounds of “snacks”; the first of which were paper thin crackers made from quinoa and some gluten free choux filled with ooey gooey Gruyère cheese fondue. I literally squealed with delight as the liquid cheese dribbled down my fingers.
The second snack looked very innocent but was a powerhouse of flavour; a slice of pickled radish topped with smoked crème fraiche and finished with salmon roe. A faint dusting of leek ash deepened the smoky flavours.
For our last round of snacks we received a bowl of tomato consommé. This little cup of goodness balanced flavours together precisely, with sago and pickled crab meat for texture and a couple of carefully added drops of toasted shell fish oil.
The consomme was finished with fresh lovage, chervil and wild garlic. Lovage has a mild bitter flavour similar to celery and coupled well with the gentle aniseed taste of the chervil.
Both the Boy and I come from families with big appetites. This is in part why the two of us first fell in love. Although I am a small framed person, I can knock back a surprisingly large amount of food and it takes a fair amount of eating to fill me up. I actually think I lack the fullness switch in my brain.
I can always be guaranteed to receive freshly baked gluten free bread at Amusé but even better still, unlike many degustations, it never stops at a single serve. The Bannister Downs house churned butter was whipped to a foamy light texture and I could have nearly eaten it on its own without any bread. Despite knowing we had another eight courses ahead of us, neither of us could turn down the offer for more bread and butter.
For the main courses, Hadleigh chose a different type of mushroom to be the hero ingredient for each dish. The first mushroom to star on the menu were ceps, or porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms are considered by some to be the king of mushrooms and are highly regarded for their meaty texture and nutty, creamy flavour.
A perfect spear of white asparagus from Bickley Valley was paired with crispy house made guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek.
Swirled across the plate were added contrasting flavours from salty bottarga mayonnaise, creamy buttermilk dressing and a nutty flaxseed gomasio. The dish was finished with wafer thin cep milk skins.
Our second course brought more chirrups of delight from me as the enoki mushroom took centre stage. There is something about these adorable mushrooms that never fails to excite me and I have been known to add them at random to a variety of my dishes at home, sometimes inappropriately. Under a blanket of precisely positioned enoki heads was a smooth squid congee made with local Busselton squid. Luscious umami flavours from a mushroom dashi added in sumptuous depth to the dish.
We moved onto a more richly flavour mushroom for the next course using shiitake with chicken rice. I do love my chicken rice but this was a very cultured masterpiece quite unlike any chicken rice I have ever relished in Singapore and beyond. It was a structurally wonderful version with many elements to it to provide that level of wow factor that you can always expect at Amuse.
Roast vinegar chicken and a purée of shiitake were cooked over coals giving a slightly charred taste and served on a bed of traditional Japanese sushi rice. Our waiter served the dish with a chicken broth that was poured tableside.
The chicken was velvety smooth which markedly contrasted the added surprise of crunchy puffed buckwheat and amaranth, crispy nori wafers and a luscious creamy egg emulsion. It was challenge for the senses but in totally good way; with silky, crunchy, meaty and smooth textures all in one mouthful. As one of my colleagues at work loves to say; it was a “party in my mouth!”
It was going to be hard to impress me more than the chicken rice did and while the next dish was divine, it didn’t manage to take away the highlight of its incredible predecessor. Going for something a bit more leftfield, Hadleigh created a dish using lamb sweetbreads and braised morels mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms have a very rich, earthy flavour which went perfectly with the milder tasting, tender sweet breads. It was served on a parsley gremolata and topped with crunchy shoestring fries and crispy salt bush.
With the subdued lighting in the restaurant, the final main course was the hardest to photograph and tested the boundaries of my camera’s capabilities. A Butterfield beef short rib was served with a medley of roasted oyster, pickled shimeji and raw button mushrooms.
Dollops of broad bean puree and black garlic “BBQ” sauce decorated around the plate looking deceptively innocent. The subtle flavours of the bean purée made the polarised sensations of syrupy sweet black garlic BBQ sauce take the Boy’s tastebuds by surprise.
Our pre-dessert was titled cumquat, walnut and apricot. It was one of the few dishes in our degustation without mushrooms as an ingredient and took on the resemblance of one in appearance instead. A very cute gesture. Using cumquat curd and cumquat meringue with smooth walnut ice cream and apricot sorbet, this was the perfect pre-dessert to cleanse our tantalised palate ready for the finale.
Upon reading our menu earlier in the night, I cannot deny I was thoroughly impressed with the addition of mushrooms into the dessert. I was also a teeny bit sceptical. However, if anyone could pull off using mushrooms in a sweet dish, I knew it would be Hadleigh!
A smoked mushroom and chocolate mousse covered in ginger and Geraldton Wax granita was served with whipped blood orange and a ball of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate sorbet wrapped in thin layer of crisp white chocolate.
To add a final bit of zing to the dish some blood orange sherbet tumbled over the top like a cascade of snow. Neither of us uttered a single word as we devoured each mouthful in a blissful state of rare silence.
To end our night of wonderment, we were given hot cups of fresh mint tea infused with native pepper berries. After all the colours of overindulgence, the tea helped kick start our digestion and we both drifted off into the beginnings of a food coma. The tea was paired with some vanilla infused West Australian desert limes and a couple of passion fruit and white chocolate drops for a kick of sweetness.
I cannot believe we left it this long between visits to Amusé, this being our fourth visit since they opened eight years ago. After each and every visit the two of us have walked away from a faultless evening. The service is exquisitely polished with every dish unique and equally incredible. If you haven’t been yet, you are seriously missing out.Disclaimer: This amazing degustation was funded by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association as part of Mushroom Mania 2014. Full of fibre, flavour and containing many scientifically proven health properties, the mushroom is a food that should be on everyone’s weekly shopping list. We are fortunate enough in Australia to be able to source a wide variety of mushrooms to eat with each variety having its own individual flavour and texture. For more information head to the Power of Mushrooms website. Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte Street, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au
There has been much buzz around the recent opening of the new restaurant St Michael 6003 in Highgate. Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage and Todd Stuart from Petite Mort have paired together to open this suave new joint located in Jackson’s old digs on Beaufort Street. Former Red Cabbage sous chef Adam Sayles has taken the reins to produce something intriguingly refined, modern and creative. This individuality has not gone unnoticed by high-profile foodies with St Michael recently starring in the weekly Hot Plates feature on the Gourmet Traveller website.
Last year for the Mushroom Mania campaign, one of my sponsored meals was a mushroom degustation at Red Cabbage and this year I was hopeful that their brand new sister restaurant would be willing to do something similar. I was very appreciative that Chef Adam was happy to come on board and create a couple of mushroom dishes for us to enjoy.
St Michael offers small share plates in addition to a more elaborate seven course tasting menu. After gazing slowly over their menu I turned to the Boy to see what he wanted eat for the evening; did he want to share a few dishes or would he prefer to go the whole hog and order the dego?
Without hesitating he replied “Well, the dego of course!” I love that we are so like-minded with our food obsessions! A match made in heaven <3
We started off with the salt and vinegar crackers which had been made so fresh that they still crackled and popped loudly as they sat on our table. Made from pork skin they bubbled on my tongue like prawn crackers creating that deliciously tingling sensation. So much fun.
Our starting course consisted of thin slices of house made corn beef prepared using 300 day grain fed Ranger Valley beef flank. The corn beef accompanied some air dried bresaola and fermented vegetables.
This dish left a surprisingly light, cleansing feeling on the palate and was an uplifting way to start a degustation. The beef had luscious marbling giving it a melt in the mouth, buttery texture.
Our next dish starred our hero ingredient; the mushroom. Tender soft Manjimup marron pieces were charred lightly and plated like a magical garden with pickled white shimeji mushrooms along with delicately peppery turnips and nasturtium flowers.
I had just enough time to grab a quick capture of this gorgeous dish before our waiter gently poured a flavoursome shiitake dashi made with mirin and organic gluten free tamari.
The dashi added a rich layer of unami that harmonised and enhanced the flavours of the marron and mushrooms elegantly. I could feel the nourishing warmth radiating right through me to the tips of my fingers. For a brief moment there was silence across the table as the Boy and I slurped up every last millilitre of the Japanese broth.
The quail breast was pressed between thin slices of Serrano ham and served lightly charred with honey roasted carrots and carrot purée. The quail had a lovely silken velvety texture, I have never eaten quail that delicately tender before.
My final main course was the lamb shoulder made using locally sourced WA lamb from Karagullen. This dish also featured our hero ingredient for the evening containing plump, meaty oyster mushrooms nestled in with dollops of goats curd.
To top it all off my dish was garnished with generous shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle. Truffle mania dies hard with this girl, and I couldn’t hold back my squeals of delight.
The cheese course was served with similar style and flair to those we have enjoyed at Red Cabbage. Forget about your standard cheese platter with wedges of cheese, crackers and quince. This dish was as interesting as its predecessors. Creamy chunks of Cashel blue cheese accompanied some pear sorbet, roast celeriac and white chocolate ganache. The dish was garnished with salted walnuts and cubes of compressed pear.
Our dessert was simply titled “yoghurt sorbet” and was quite the exquisite surprise, totally addictive and texturally satisfying. Amid the single scoop of lightly tangy sorbet were multiple droplets of fruit and herbs frozen in liquid nitrogen. As soon as each particle hit my mouth they would start to dissolve giving me alternate bursts of vibrant flavour including strawberry, pear, peach, orange, mango, passionfruit, parsley, mint and basil. It was mind-blowing.
This dessert excited me so much that I wasn’t ready for our meal to end but alas we had already eaten out way through our seven courses. I sheepishly asked our waiter if I could possibly have another round of something sweet. Maybe some petit fours to go with my tea?
He happily obliged and we were given a bowl of curious asymmetrical blocks of peanut butter, salted caramel and chocolate. They were also frozen in liquid nitrogen and looked like they would be hard to bite into as they were still covered in an icy mist. Looks can be deceiving and with each bite, I discovered the inside of these chunks still remained wondrously soft and velvety.
There is no doubt I will be returning to St Michael as they offer something quite different to their surrounding competitors. They allow diners to enjoy a touch of high end fine dining without having to commit to a whole degustation or experience the formality and pomp.Mushroom Mania campaign. Chompchomp has been delighted to be part of this campaign for three years running as she is a huge advocate for all things mushroom. She would also like to thank all the team from St Michael for coming on board with creating a mushroom themed degustation. St Michael 6003 483 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9328 1177 | Facebook Price: Small bites $8-18, Mains $15-30, 7 course tasting menu $89
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
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
We have visited the Wild Duck a couple of times when they were located in Albany. On our most recent visit we even managed to wow my stepdad by giving him his first experience of a degustation meal complete with fancy foams and gels. The Boy has very fond memories of Albany and was happy to see how this creative restaurant has managed moving up to the big smoke.
Our evening began with the chef’s amuse bouche, a Thai influenced fish cake with a herb aioli. This tasty morsel wasn’t gluten free. My gluten free replacement was a single but super fresh oyster from Franklin Harbour.
These South Australian oysters are always so plump and creamy and never fail to excite me. I also chose to have the matched wines with our degustation however I couldn’t help myself from starting the meal with an additional glass of bubbles. In hindsight, I should remember that when doing a degustation with matched wines, I don’t NEED that extra glass of bubbles.
Our first course was a cute little mug of broccoli soup. It was wintry cold and rainy outside and the warming soup was a perfect choice to ease us into an evening of eating and birthday celebrations. The thick creamy soup had a hint of sweet from the swirl of balsamic reduction and ended with a familiar tang from the crumbled Meredith Dairy goats cheese.
Our second entrée was the beef carpaccio. The paper thin slices of brilliant, ruby red beef dissolved on my tongue in a second. Textural contrasts with some shaved fennel and watercress added layers of flavours which were accentuated by fresh horseradish and beetroot. The dish was finished with a sumptuous drizzle of slow cooked egg yolk. We had barely been there an hour and already we had enjoyed some of my favourites of all time; fresh oysters, champagne and slow cooked egg.
Next up was the confit salmon. A perfect bite of salmon slow cooked at 42 degrees proved to be just as outstanding as our previous dishes. I loved how each dish contained elements of contrasting textures and flavours. Served with the salmon were pickled and charred cucumber and fresh samphire which added both crunchy and salty aspects to the palate. This was all smoothed out beautifully by some dollops of crème fraiche and drizzles of a dill infusion oil.
Unlike many of my fellow pork-obsessive bloggers, I don’t eat a lot of pork and I would rarely choose it unless it was part of a tasting menu. Consequently when I do eat it, it has to be pretty damn good for me to enjoy it. Wild Duck’s confit pork belly is prepared using slow cooking techniques over 16 hours resulting in a buttery soft texture and no greasy porky aftertaste. The crispy skin cracked exuberantly in my mouth making me giggle too loudly thanks my increasingly intoxicated state.
The pork belly was served with a steamed pork bun which for me was adapted to be gluten free by leaving out the dumpling skin and serving me just the stuffing. Some grilled polenta, smooth sweetcorn purée, cubes of warm apple jellies and a crunchy apple and micro herb salad completed the dish.
Wild Duck offer a couple of optional extras with their degustation and in our usual state of gluttony we agreed to order both. The first optional course was a rabbit roulade with dates and pistachio alongside a red wine braised rabbit croquette. This dish was unable to be changed to be gluten free so the chef offered to make me something different.
My replacement dish was a duo of beef. Winter really is the time to get slow cooking and one of the best cuts of beef to slow cook is the cheek. My first time I tried cheek was moons ago prior to my blogging days at the Loose Box in Mundaring and I will never forget this memorable meal. Wild Duck’s dish was similarly heart-warming with wondrous soft shreds of beef cheek accompanying a charred nub of Black Angus fillet. It was served with a fondant potato, beetroot and cauliflower crumble, sousvide honey thyme carrots and a cauliflower purée.
I had restrained from eating for most of the day to save room for dinner and it was becoming progressively obvious to the Boy that I was quite drunk. My voice volume was slowly increasing and my attention to detail to my photography had all but expired. The Boy reached across the table to grab my camera and flipped quickly through some of my shots whilst raising his eyebrows at me. I slurped up my sorbet noisily and returned his gaze with a coy smile.
Consequently details of our final main dish is a little foggier than I would prefer and the angling of my photo is somewhat clumsy. A fillet of crispy skinned duck breast was paired with cubes of grilled speck bacon, aniseed poached pears and braised honey carrots. Coloured smears of carrot purée and creamed peas made this dish quite a substantial one, this wasn’t a degustation where we went home hungry.
Our second optional course was the pre-dessert; a picture perfect lemon soufflé with coconut ice cream. It was powder puff light and I could nearly hear the “poof” as I plunged my spoon in the ramekin. In fact I vaguely recall mimicking that “poof” noise as I tucked into it.
Our evening ended with the Wild Duck’s chocolate delice; a decadent mousse made from cream, eggs and chocolate. Scattered across my plate like Willy Wonka’s garden were wibbly-wobbly strawberry jellies, strawberry sponge and crunchy meringue kisses adorned with blobs of yoghurt parfait, fresh strawberries and bright pink strawberry powder. A bright and cheerful way to end a joyful evening together.
Happy Birthday to my best friend and my one true love. I love you and I love my life with you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Chompchomp paid for this meal out of her own pocket however at the end of the night the Boy reminded her to use their digital version of the Entertainment card to receive a $40 discount of the total bill. Wild Duck 35 Hampden Road, Nedlands WA 6009 | http://www.wildduckrestaurant.com/ $$$$ (Seven course degustation $105, nine course degustation $130, $50 extra for matched wines)
Last year during the Gourmet Escape food and wine festival in Margaret River I attended a dinner event with Miles Irving, an Englishman known worldwide for promoting foraging of wild produce. In the aftermath of the evening I found no desire to write about my experience largely because the food served for the evening was bland and tasted more like catering than fine dining. And let’s be honest, what’s a blog post without pretty pictures? What also uninspired me was I felt the attitudes of the evening toward sustainability for our precious wildlife ecosystems was somewhat lacking. I was left disappointed and wanting to know more about what our native food tastes like without damaging our delicate environment. Enter Fervor.
Fervor is a family run business who specialise in providing unique pop-up dining experiences that are held at a variety of locations around Western Australia. They are dedicated to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, a philosophy that I immediately can connect with. They are huge supporters of local small businesses and are passionate in helping enhance the community feel in the regional towns they visit. Many of their signature dishes are centred on using native Australian plants that are obtained from small-scale producers or collected with permission from private properties. They are extremely mindful of sustainability and will limit what they take to avoid negatively impacting the environment. For Eat Drink Perth this year, they graced us people of Perth with their presence for one amazing night that was suitably held on the rooftop at Greenhouse, a restaurant on St Georges Terrace that is also focused on these concepts.
Every tiny detail of the evening proudly showcased produce from this great State of ours. On arrival we were served gin from the Grove Distillery in the Margaret River region. If you are ever in the South West, I highly recommend a visit to The Grove. Their staff are dynamic and entertaining and if you enjoy flavoured liqueurs, you will find more than a few to tickle your taste buds. The Grove gin was served with tonic and fresh pearls of finger limes from Marvick Native Farms in Moore River.
The evening was very intimate with only 30 guests which encouraged relaxed conversation to spark up between strangers. While we enjoyed our gin a number of small canapés were offered around. Included were twigs of crispy saltbush that looked like they would be barely palatable yet they were tastier than any packet of chips I’ve ever eaten.
One of my favourite canapés was the pickled dried youlk, a type of Australia tuber that is similar to a potato. The youlk was paired with Samphire powder and small little dried native apples called muntries. The macadamia crisps had a light, dissolving texture similar to that of a prawn cracker and were dusted with macadamia snow and roasted crushed macadamias. The macadamias are sourced from Treeton Road’s macadamias in South West of WA.
Set up next to our long table was the chef’s pass where the talented team plated up all of our dishes with tender love and attention. It enhanced the informality of the evening as in between each course all the guests would gather around the chefs mesmerised while they created such beautiful masterpieces before our eyes.
Our first course was a single poached Albany oyster obtained from a sustainable farm in southern Western Australia. It was garnished with ruby saltbush berries and finger lime vinaigrette. The oyster slid out of the shell effortlessly and left a wonderful fresh taste in the mouth. It was paired with a glass of South Coast Cider from the Old Coast Road Brewery in Myalup.
Our second entrée was an Esperance scallop served with fermented riberries and juice, sea celery oil and macadamias. Riberries are a type of Australian Lilly Pilli with a tart flavour with subtle hints of cinnamon and cloves. They complemented the more savoury flavours of the macadamia and gentle sweet creaminess of the scallop. This was matched with a 2006 Semillon from Cape Naturalist winery. This winery only produces a small amount of hand crafted wines of very high quality. Their Semillon had a hint of oak and ended with a beautiful citrusy finish.
As the sun set and the combination of good food and drink filled our veins, the mood became even more ambient. I learnt that some of the guests at our table were die-hard Fervor fans having come all the way from Mukinbudin, a wheat belt town halfway between Perth and Kalgoorlie. They were lucky enough to have had Fervor come to their tiny town for a sell-out night which encouraged one of the couples to invite them back to cater for their wedding. Hearing stories about how their Fervor dinner experience brought all the town together was so heart-warming.
Our next course was a Yallingup marron with lemon myrtle emulsion and handmade sea salt. This piece of marron was incredible enough to rival that which we had at Co-op Dining for our anniversary dinner last year. Tender and super sweet, the marron was sourced from a local winery where is sustainably farmed in dams. It was paired with Eagle Bay Brewery’s Pale Ale which I did not drink as it wasn’t gluten free.
Our first main course involved a bit of guest involvement which is a great way to add another level of entertainment to the evening. Local crab with Samphire was served in terracotta pots with a slow cooked, unopened egg and fire roasted bread. My gluten free requirement was not overlooked and I received my own serve of gluten free bread with separate butter to avoid contamination.
I gently cracked open my egg and let it carefully slide into my dish with the crab before slicing into the soft yolk and watching it slowly envelop everything on the plate. My heart nearly stopped a beat it was THAT good.
The next main dish of kangaroo tail required a fair bit of artistic plating by the chef and his team so once again we gathered around the pass to be fascinated by their effortless creations. Fervor chose to use kangaroo as it is abundant in Western Australia and they source it from a bio-dynamic, free range producer. The plates were vibrantly decorated with rich marron coloured slashes of Wild Rosella purée in addition to red gum ash, crispy salt bush and macadamia.
Amongst my various food intolerances and allergies, I have learnt the hard way that I am strangely allergic to kangaroo. My reaction is similar to that I imagine someone with a nut allergy would have. My throat swells up and I have trouble swallowing; it is altogether unpleasant. Consequently I requested an alternate meat and was offered lamb instead. This course was paired with a beautiful drop of ruby red 2006 Merops Ornatus.
Our palate cleanser was a scoop of eucalyptus ice which was refreshing and cleared the palate for the two courses of dessert.
The first dessert centred on the quandong, an extremely diverse and unique Australian fruit that is related to sandalwood. The fruit is quite versatile providing both edible flesh around the nut in addition to a more interesting flavoured kernel inside the nut.
Our dessert was carefully constructed on pieces of rock with layers of coal toasted meringue, quandong kernel cream, quandong relish and quandong sherbet garnished with preserved quandongs. The flavour was reminiscent of a cross between a sweet apricot and more sour tasting rhubarb.
Our second dessert was served in small little jars that contained a puff of sandalwood smoke that wafted out when you opened it. Inside the jar contained smooth milk ice cream and wattle seed curd topped with shards of fresh local honeycomb and crystallised sea lettuce.
The smoky taint gave a beautiful rounded finish to the array of textures and flavours. This finale was paired with a 2011 Cane Cut Riesling from Cape Grace one of my favourite wineries in Margaret River.
In a perfect way to end the meal, a collection of petit fours were handed around the table including wattle seed lamingtons and strawberry gum truffles. Only the truffles were gluten free so I figured I deserved more than just a few of them and helped myself to a handful. I was told the lamingtons were ever so light and fluffy and the wattle seed imparted an interesting coffee flavour to them.
As tea and coffee were served, Chef Paul and his sister Bree made some closing remarks to thank us all for joining them on such a beautiful evening in Perth. Their passion and energy was so inspiring and it was such a beautiful thing to have the privilege to be part of it all. I love that their Fervor vision is not only to showcase to guests what amazing flavours are out there in the Australian bush but to always ensure sustainability of what they harvest whilst respecting our environment and supporting our local communities.
Fervor | Australian pop-up dining | www.fervor.com.auFervor was held at The Greenhouse Perth on the 6th April 2014 for Eat Drink Perth. This was not a sponsored event and Chompchomp paid full price for her ticket at $225 per person all inclusive. Fervor travel all around Western Australia, check out their website for their next pop-up location. Held at Greenhouse Perth 100 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9481 8333 | www.greenhouseperth.com
This year sparks the very first year that the internationally acclaimed Taste Festival hits our shores. Taste Festivals are held in 18 cities around the world including London, Milan and Sydney. Taste of Perth is a food event not to be missed that will take your festival foodie experience well above and beyond the familiar battling of crowds for a nibble on free samples to a higher end design-your-own degustation extravaganza.
For three days the festival will take over Langley Park as hot shot chefs from around town show off their signature dishes in one location. Already secured on the line up are Nobu, Greenhouse, Silks, Print Hall, Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume and el Público with more restaurants to be announced in the coming weeks.
I can already start to imagine what amazing designer dego creations might be able to be created by these amazing Perth chefs; I’m dreaming of freshly shucked oysters topped with cucumber chilli granita from Lalla Rookh, something hyperlocal and sustainable from Greenhouse, the heart stopping Black Miso cod from Nobu, wood grilled black salsify with oyster mushrooms and ricotta from Print Hall and I would love to end it all with el Publico’s peanut butter parfait with dulche de leche praline.
In addition to the star studded line up there will be a multitude of other activities including master classes, live cooking demonstrations, interactive cooking classes, expert wine tasting and live entertainment.For your chance to WIN a DOUBLE PASS to Taste of Perth valued at $64, describe what dishes you want to eat for your perfect designer degustation in the comments section below then head over and like my Facebook page and sign up to receive my Chompchomp updates by email. You can be as creative as you like! If you are stuck for ideas check out the restaurants menus for inspiration. Good luck!
Competition Terms and Conditions
● This competition is open to all Chompchomp readers who have an Australian postal address
● The two winners of the double passes will be chosen by myself and the Boy based on the most interesting and creative answer written in the comments section below who have additionally liked my Chompchomp Facebook page and signed up for Chompchomp updates by email.
● Entries close 5.00pm Thursday 24th April 2014 – COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSEDTaste of Perth: The World’s Greatest Restaurant Festival | www.tasteofperth.com.au 2-4th May 2014, Langley Park Tickets available from purchase through Ticketek here Proudly part of Eat Drink Perth
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 Valentine’s Day this year I thought I would take a punt and secretly book us a table at Rochelle Adonis for their sensuous aphrodisiac laced dessert degustation. Having already blogged about Rochelle Adonis several times, I didn’t want to ruin the mood of our romantic evening with a series of photo shoots and although I brought my camera with me I didn’t really take my photography seriously. Our evening turned out to be such a beautiful experience that despite the poor quality of my images I am happy to swallow my pride and share it with you. You may notice that the quality of photos deteriorates further more as the night goes on and my attention gets dragged away.
Every course was careful created to enhance the love in the air using ingredients designed to tantalise the senses. We had our own private table out in the courtyard surrounded by fairy lights and scented candles. It felt like we were in our own little world and let all our cares and worries of the week wash away as we soaked up the romantic atmosphere.
Our first course started off with glasses of Mumm champagne paired with spoons of dreamy coloured spheres. Each sphere was flavoured differently and burst in the mouth to reveal three flavours; strawberry and slow gin, mango and triple sec, and clove, honey apple and whisky.
It felt like a boozy version of bubble tea which many of you know I absolutely love. In fact any food or drink that involves little burstable spheres excites me!
The second component to this course was hidden in two bright red envelopes. Inside each envelope was a square of paper thin Rochelle Adonis nougat and a pen with edible ink.
We wrote little love notes to each other and exchanged before eating them. The nougat was softly flavoured with clove and nutmeg.
As the sun set, we were left with only the flickering light of the candles and soft glow of the fairy lights so we inched our chairs closer together ready for the next course. It was titled “Orange flower honey, peach and almond”. As pretty as I would always expect from this team, this dish contained a soft crumbled base of malted almond crumbs, poached peach slivers, honey, cinnamon and ginger. It was finished with a smooth peach and cognac gel and garnished with shards of peach meringue.
The third course was one of my favourites; lovingtons. It was no problem for the chef to convert this gorgeousness to be gluten free and I was thankful for their efforts. A lovable heart-shaped lamington played centre stage for this dish and it was filled with yuzu curd and dipped in raspberry gel. It lay innocently on a raspberry “cloud” that contained a surprise of lychee parfait inside it. Mango puree and mandarin snow added sweet and citrusy notes to the dish. It was garnished with blueberries, lychee and raspberries. This had a serious wow factor!
To break the dessert degustation into two, our next course was a savoury course; cheese. Well cheese IS part of a proper dessert isn’t it? This was the only course that the gluten free option looked any different from the Boy’s. For everything else the chef managed to make our dishes appear the same. There was no missing out for me on this dego! The Boy received Fourme d’Ambert filled cannoli with a fig and salsa verd, whipped triple cream goats cheese infused with caraway and porcini with a beetroot sponge, and his favourite a gruyere stuffed zucchini flower.
The highlight of my gluten free cheese course was humbly described by our waitress as a gruyere cheese toasty. It was a small, wafer thin rectangle of gluten free bread topped with cheese that in all honesty initially made me think … “Really?”
That was until I bit into it.
How could something so thin and little still contain all the vital aspects of texture and flavour of a perfect cheese toasty? The outside was crunchy crisp, the inside oozed gooey, cheesy goodness and there was enough flavour to knock my socks off.
There were two other components on my cheese course. Creamy blobs of Cashel blue contrasted wondrously with the sweetness of fresh figs and salsa verd. The Lingot triple cream goats cheese was served deconstructed with gluten free quinoa croutons and golden baby beets.
To move our palates back to the realm of sweets we were provided with one of Rochelle’s signature styled sorbets. Everywhere we go recently we have been drinking Pimm’s cocktails laced with fresh fruit and it was a lovely coincidence to see it feature in the sorbet.
Perfectly light and nearly fizzy, the sorbet was made with strawberry and orange and coated with borage snow. Cleansed and refreshed we were ready for more dessert!
While waiting for our next course we couldn’t help ourselves from opening our salted caramels and devouring them. Unlike a lot of chewy hard caramels these were buttery soft and dissolved in the mouth. They were a perfect match with the Stella Bella Pink Muscat I had sneakily stashed in my handbag in case we drank our way through the provided champagne.
Our pre-dessert was made from blood plums, apricot and rosemary. A tart strap of blood plum “leather” and compote was paired with a creamy rosemary white chocolate mousse, green apple gel and apricot “fluff”. It was a gentle transition to take us to the last but not least course.
As our final dish arrived I was amazed that despite enjoying six courses of dessert, I was left just as satisfied as if it were a “normal” degustation. Each plate had brought with it a mini-journey for the senses and I was excited to see how it all would end. Regrettably for you dear readers, my mind was taken far away from focusing on obtaining you some beautiful photos, in fact it seemed far away from focus altogether! I was too lost in enjoying the emotions and happiness we both felt for each other and in the sheer enjoyment of this last scrumptious finale. The last dish was titled “Roses and red and violets are blue, once I had a shattered heart and now I’m with you.”
Using Valrhona’s 64% Ariguani chocolate the chef created an incredible “shattered mousse” adorned with rose petals. It was sided by a chunk of Rochelle Adonis’s signature chocolate cake blushed with brilliant coloured strawberry powder. Next to these delicacies sat a tear drop shaped ampoule that was filled with rose water. The idea was to shatter the ampoule over the dessert enhancing it with gentle flavour.
I have been told by others that have previously done a dessert degustation that it isn’t for the light hearted. However after sharing this experience with someone who claims to not even be into desserts I can safely say this is not the case. Our evening was one of the best nights out we have had in a long time and couldn’t have come at a better time for us.Happy Valentine’s to the best husband in the world. You are my best friend and my one true love. I love you and I love my life with you. Rochelle Adonis’s dessert degustation was $338 per couple and included a bottle of Mumm champagne. We would both like to extend a massive thank you to the whole team at Rochelle Adonis for making this one of our best Valentines to date; you have excelled yourselves once again. For more on Rochelle Adonis head over to my previous posts: High Tea at Rochelle Adonis October 2011 Returning to Rochelle Adonis for High Tea September 2012 Rochelle Adonis’s House Warming Party July 2013 Rochelle Adonis | (08) 9227 0007 | 2 St Albans Avenue, Highgate WA 6003 | rochelleadonis.com
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.
One of the most exciting new developments in the city is Brookfield Place situated on St Georges Terrace. This complex is based around the BHP skyscraper and is an entertainment hub filled with high end restaurants and bars. Print Hall is one of the more sophisticated new eating locations within the complex and is housed in the beautiful heritage listed Newspaper House. Print Hall recently won six awards at the Australian Hotels Association Western Australia Hospitality Awards for Excellence and has also received one star in the 2014 Good Food Guide. The kitchen team is led by David Coomer of iconic Star Anise fame and Executive chef Shane Watson and these talented guys are very focused on using Western Australian produce to serve European influenced dishes.
My first visit to Print Hall was earlier in the year when we stopped for a couple of quick drinks before seeing David Attenborough’s live show at the Perth Convention Centre. Immediately upon entering the bar I was wowed by its opulence and sense of grandeur; it is massive by Perth standards. Situated at one end of the luxurious bar is a permanent oyster bar manned by the lovely Jerry Fraser who is also known as the “King of Oysters”. Jerry is there nearly every day freshly shucking oysters on demand for hungry diners in addition to serving a variety of super fresh local seafood. On this night however we missed out on meeting the man himself and got his more than competent side kick Tony.
Like moths attracted to a bright light the Boy and I gravitated over to the neon “Jerry’s Oysters” sign and sat ourselves in front of Tony at the bar. Looking at my clock I saw we had exactly one hour until the show began and ambitiously ordered the biggest and most expensive seafood platter to share; “The Print Hall”. The Boy gave me a bit of a high brow look but didn’t make any attempts to stop me ordering it.
Tony assured us he would have our platter ready for us in a jiffy and made quick work preparing everything giving us plenty of time to make a total mess of ourselves as we devoured it.
Our enormous platter was piled high with all the delights of the sea including a full Western rock lobster, Blue Ridge marron, Blue Manna crab, Tiger prawns, mussels, cambinata yabbies and oysters. Nothing beats the taste of freshly shucked oysters in my humble opinion; I can eat them by the dozen. These combined with nearly every other tasty crustacean from the sea it was enough to send us both into a dizzy head spin. It was a fabulous experience and worth every single cent.
After our brief but awesome experience at Print Hall Bar, I was very eager to return. My Dad and Stepmum are two very well-travelled foodies who live in the heart of Melbourne just off Flinders Lane where they are surrounded by the City’s top end restaurants. I knew they would be hard to impress so when they came over for a whirlwind business trip to Perth I took a punt and booked a table in the Print Hall Dining Room.
We started the night off with a round of cocktails upstairs in the Apple Daily Bar overlooking Print Hall’s long bar. Dad and the Boy both ordered the daily special cocktail which was made with apple and rosemary. Not really the Boy’s thing however as you may know he is a purist strawberry daiquiri fan. This drink wasn’t pink enough for him!
I ordered the White Lady Boy made with white spirits, yuzu and ginger. It was topped with pretty little flowers and was fresh, light and far too easy to knock back. I could have gulped another down if it wasn’t a work night! My Stepmum ordered Milk of the Poppy with pandan, mandarin and coconut and her drink tasted like an alcoholic version of something you get off the dessert tray at Dim sum. Just minus the cubes and balls.
After our drinks we were escorted back downstairs to the Print Hall Dining Room. My heart sunk a little as I looked around and saw the dim level of ambient lighting as I knew my photography skills were in for a test. Not to worry, I’m always up for a challenge and what better way to create a beautiful mood than to turn the lights down real low?
After listening to our waitress give us a very polished but somewhat lengthy description of the three champagnes served by the glass, she brought our complementary amuse bouche to the table. A curious zesty tasting disc of fresh cheese made from a mixture of mascarpone, cream, feta and yoghurt and garnished with dried black olives, roasted parmesan, dill pollen and some fresh dill. It was so soft that it begun to melt sumptuously on the plate.
To scoop the cheese up we were given an enormous cracker that looks like something from another planet. It was gluten free and made from potato, tapioca and brown rice flours. It had a similar texture to a prawn cracker being light and easy to start. It was fun passing it around taking turns to snap off a piece.
We chose to have the four course meal option for $110 per person as there was something on the menu for everyone including both vegetarian and gluten free options. To start off with Dad and I chose the Blue Manna crab with curried egg, cucumber and avruga caviar. The crab was so sweet it was almost like eating dessert and the addition of the avruga gave it a wonderful salty finish. My gluten free version omitted the crisp bread however my dish didn’t feel unfinished without it. Our waitress gave me another giant sized cracker in case I wanted that textural crunchy component.
The Boy and my Step mum chose the tartare of Point Samson scampi. It came with a flavoursome carrot, ginger and orange puree and tiny slivers of seaweed and micro herbs.
The Boy chose the vegetarian option of wood grilled black salsify for his second course option. Black salsify is a root vegetable that belongs to the dandelion family and is also known as the oyster plant because it has an oyster like taste when it is cooked. It is considered to be very nutritious containing proteins, fats, essential amino acids, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, E and C. It was served with brilliant green kale, hot smoked ricotta and meaty oyster mushrooms.
The remainder of us chose the roasted pigeon breast for our second course. The pigeon was cured in gin, juniper and sage and then roasted to a luscious ruby red rare. To further enhance the rich colours and flavours, a chunk of creamy rare seared chicken liver was buried in amongst the tender breast along with sweet pickled and pureed beetroot.
Some slightly bitter cooked radicchio leaves were also tossed in there giving a wonderfully diverse tickle to my taste-buds. As I savoured every twist and turn of this dish’s elements I looked up to see both my Dad and Stepmum’s facial expressions indicating they were doing the same!
The main course fish of the day was Red Emperor and have to I apologise to you my dear readers as you will only get to see and hear about one main dish despite there being a number of other beautiful options on the menu. It is a rare occasion that I dine out with my family and we all order the same thing but we did this time round. When I first moved out of home at the tender age of seventeen, the first whole fish I ever attempted to cook was an enormous Red Emperor. It barely fit into my oven and my fellow flat mates looked on with suspicion and doubt. Thankfully the fish turned out perfectly, I proved them all wrong and my love for this fish has stayed ever since. Print Hall did not disappoint and I was served an exquisitely cooked thick wedge of juicy fish topped on a neat pile of wood grilled mussels and squid. Brightly coloured and aromatic sofrito introduced a bit of a South American feel to this dish and it was so good I nearly wanted to lick my plate clean.
To accompany our mains a side serve of salad and a bowl of duck fat potatoes were brought to the table. Now if you bear in mind that my Stepmum has a well-known reputation amongst both friends and family for making the best duck fat potatoes these potatoes were up for some scrutiny. Thankfully they were damn good and although my Stepmum’s are definitely better, it was a pretty close call!
For dessert the Boy ordered the pumpkin pie with pepita sponge and maple ice cream. Not being a much of a sweet tooth, he isn’t really one to get into the whole concept of de-constructed desserts and I guarantee the only reason he chose this was because it said maple ice cream on the menu. He is very easily pleased for his sweets; give him ice cream and it will satisfy him every time.
For my dessert our waitress recommended for me to have the Valrhona chocolate mousse as she felt this was the best gluten free option to have. It sounded nothing short of amazing; Valrhona chocolate mousse, hazelnut, single origin coffee crème and milk sorbet. I have to say however, after enjoying a succession of very impressive courses, my dessert actually left me feeling somewhat under-whelmed. Even my chocoholic Stepmum agreed with me that it wasn’t that exciting. Please don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything specifically wrong with it; it just didn’t feel special like everything else did. After all our other dishes totally exceeded our expectations it was a shame to end the night on a bit of a fizzer.
Overall we were both very impressed on each of our evenings at Print Hall . These guys have nailed all the essential key elements for success; polished, knowledgeable service, interesting and creative food with fresh locally sourced produce where possible and an ambience that makes you feel like you are dining somewhere quite special. I look forward to returning but maybe I will go for lunch next time so that I can actually take some decent photos of their beautiful food!Apple Daily Bar & Eating House 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6282 0088 Print Hall Bar and Dining Room 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6282 0000 | www.printhall.com.au Price: $$$$ (2 courses $70, 3 courses $90, 4 courses $110, dego $150)) Food: 4.5/5 (creative but with classic elements) Service: 5/5 (faultless) Ambience: 4.5/5 (very romantic and opulent, just not great for a food blogger’s photos!) Drinks: 4.5/5 (extensive wine list, thank god Da chose because I got lost in it all) Total: 18.5/20
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 am always inspired by people who love their craft. Classroom’s bar manager Andrew Bennet and Chef Daniel Sterpini talked passionately to us about the development of their Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclasses from its humble beginnings in their own homes to the sell-out events they hold today. Their cocktail choice for us was their signature drink; a liquid nitrogen Espresso Martini served with an Asteroid Rocher dessert which was sadly not gluten free.
Their Espresso martini consists of three layers. The first layer contains their own house made blend based around a fresh shot of Dark Star coffee which is pulled to order to maintain its crema and aroma. Added to this is some vanilla vodka, dark chocolate liqueur, Italian coffee liqueur and some Pedro Ximenez sherry to give you a “kick on the back palate”.
The second layer is created by adding liquid nitrogen to the top of the drink which subsequently freezes the crema of the coffee like a crème brûlée giving it a frozen edge.
The final layer is created to remind you of a tiramisu; the martini is topped with a swirl of house made sherry and mascarpone foam and then dusted with coverture chocolate.
The Asteroid Rocher dessert contained numerous elements all of which looked delicious. Popping candy, gold dust, malted honeycomb, Persian fairy floss, fresh blueberries and banana foam surrounded the “asteroid” making it an eye catching dish. I looked on in envy as everyone chowed down until my gluten free adapted version was given to me, sans asteroid and popping candy. I had been spoilt rotten with so many gluten free options over the weekend that I was hardly going to complain but I cannot deny my replacement didn’t look nearly as amazing. Hopefully when Classroom next offers a Cocktail matching Masterclass they will have one that is totally gluten free friendly? I await with bated breath!The Classroom 356 Charles Street, North Perth WA 6006 | (08) 9444 7729 | www.theclassroom.com.au
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.
In the weeks preceding our recent trip down to Margaret River I booked a table at Wills Domain, the winner of two stars in addition to the best WA regional restaurant of the year. I wanted fancy and was certain this would fit the bill perfectly.
The restaurant faces out onto the winery boasting 180 degree views of the sweeping vineyards. It had been a very wet weekend and we were blessed with some of the first rays of sunshine we had seen for days. A nippy breeze remained in the air to remind us that summer was still a few weeks away. We started off at Wills Domain’s cellar door to try a few of their wines and walked away appreciating why they hold a number of accolades for their collection. Suffice to say we didn’t walk away empty handed, in fact we had to pick up a full case on the way out!
Once seated at our table, we asked for some spice roasted almonds and marinated olives to be brought out while we perused the menu. I had forced the Boy to go on a short but rather hilly jog earlier in the morning and both our tummies were rumbling as loud as the thunderstorm the night before. The nuts were roasted with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander seeds and honey and packed a decent punch of flavour.
We both ordered the gin cured trout for entrée. Many of you may know about my gin obsession so for me this was a logical choice. Bright colours of locally grown heirloom beetroots, nasturtium flowers and pickles wound elegantly around the plate like a Spring garden bed. I found the “prawn crackers” quite curious. They were actually made from trout skins that are dried and puffed. You could even see the tiny little scales in them. They dissolved on the tongue satisfyingly.
After a considerable wait for our next dish whilst surrounded by very vocal young babies, our mains finally arrived. I was craving beef which is unusual for me so I ordered the Wagyu brisket despite getting a low brow from my dear husband.
I haven’t had red meat in some time, not necessarily because I don’t want it but more so because the Boy no longer eats it and we usually share our food! Three solid chunks of Ningaloo Wagyu brisket were served plank style with fresh kale, parsnip puree and fresh orange.
This was a very simple dish with each element done perfectly but I couldn’t help but feel that this was a very safe menu choice and lacked the creativity and imagination I would have expected for a two starred restaurant. The meat shredded with no effort under my fork and oozed that characteristic smooth, buttery flavour that one can only expect from Wagyu.
The Boy ordered the line caught snapper served with mussels, cuttlefish, fennel and nettles. His fish was also tenderlicious and flakable using only the freshest ingredients and served with a relaxed level of simplicity. We ordered a couple of sides to accompany our mains; roasted pumpkin with seeds and pomegranate and the radicchio and baby cos with buttermilk dressing.
Now as I have told you before, the bar has been set for the most amazing roast pumpkin in all the land by Rockpool. I have now eaten their version of this side dish at more than one Rockpool location, and, on half a dozen occasions. It never fails to woo me every time. If you are going to make a basic dish like this, then make sure you make it really really well! Wills Domain is first place I can confidently say serves roasted pumpkin that is AS GOOD AS ROCKPOOL’S!
Yes, I called it!
There was another fairly extended delay until our plates were cleared and another again before our smiley waitress finally brought the dessert menus out for us. Not quite the polished service I was expecting. As is often the case I couldn’t decide between cheese and sweets so the Boy and I agreed to share one of each. However, in a rare moment of contradiction, we found that we couldn’t agree on which cheese. Accustomed to usually ordering them all, it is a difficult task picking just one! We solved things the old fashioned way and flipped a coin. To my delight I won and selected the Vigneron cheese, or “winemaker’s cheese”.
This cheese is sourced from Woodside Cheese Wrights in South Australia and was created to “showcase the vine leaves and wines” from their vineyards in McLaren Vale. The young cheeses are wrapped in specially selected vine leaves and then washed in white wine. The end result is a fairly complex tasting cheese with a pleasant sweet, slightly earthy flavour ending with a nutty after-taste.
The Boy’s choice of dessert to share was the bitter sweet chocolate slab served with coconut ice cream, passionfruit gel and fresh fruit. The full gluteny version also has a macadamia crumb but the chef was happy to serve the crumb in a little bowl on the side so the Boy could enjoy this component without me.
Overall, our meal at Wills Domain was very enjoyable however I cannot deny I walked away a little disappointed. We have been fortunate enough to dine at a decent number of starred restaurants around Australia and I expected their service to be as polished as their food. Whilst our wait staff were dynamic and friendly, there was long waits between courses, empty plates remained on tables for prolonged times, and even though I made my booking a few weeks in advance, we were seated down the end of the balcony between two families with young children rather than in the body of the restaurant. If I hadn’t built up my expectations due to their rating, we would have actually had a fabulous day and will have to go back again to see if this was a once off.Wills Domain Lot 341 Brash Road (Corner of Abbey Farm Road & Brash Road), Yallingup WA | (08) 9755 2327 | www.willsdomain.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $19-21, Mains $29-39) Food: 4/5 (simple, executed precisely without fanfare or extravagance) Service: 3/5 (friendly but inattentive & slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (placed between two noisy families it was hard to appreciate potential) Drinks: 4.5/5 (the wines are superb, our fav was the 2009 Reserve Bitza) Total: 15/20