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.
Being a Mushroom Mania blogger, I feel like a proud ambassador for the mighty mushroom and consequently it was no surprise to me when I received an invitation to attend the Australian Mushroom Grower Association’s Celebration Dinner as part of their “Mushrooms Support Pink” campaign. This campaign is aimed at helping raise awareness for breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
We were treated to a four course meal with mushrooms featuring in every dish to show off what a versatile and flavoursome food they are.
Over the course of the evening, we were encouraged to enter a raffle to help raise money for cancer research with a number of small pink prizes to go around. The Boy managed to win himself a pink whisk!
Mandoon Estate have been producing boutique wines in the Swan Valley since 2010, and this year marks the opening of their incredible restaurant and beer garden. To celebrate this achievement, last week they held an invitation only Grand Opening launch party to introduce Perthites to this new kid on the block.
The venue is huge with a classy fine dining restaurant offering a degustation menu, a large beer hall facing out onto the vineyards serving shared tapas styled food, a casual beer garden where you can purchase “picnics” from the deli, private dining rooms, function rooms and more.
It is quite unlike anything in the Valley and sets a new standard for the region. Within minutes of our arrival I was already imagining the next event I could plan here!
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
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.
Chocolate is an addiction of mine that I’m certain I can blame on my genetics. Both Mum and Dad love their chocolate and I have been coerced into a number of chocolate binges with Mum over the years. I figure that there is no point fighting nature and assure myself that chocolate IS a nourishing super food after all. In fact, I am actually doing my body a favour giving it a daily dose. The best type of chocolate, in my humble opinion, is raw chocolate. sumptuous and silky, it has a melt in your mouth texture that will certainly have you going back for more.
Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
Being a veterinarian makes me the only scientist in my direct family; my mother is a retired Jazz singer, my father is a fashion designer and even my sister will oil paint in her spare time. Whilst I do enjoy the freedom and creativity of the arts, my strongest loyalties will always lie with my furry patients and their owners.
This isn’t to say I don’t love and cherish my blog too and with Chompchomp turning three this month it has been so exciting to watch my readership steadily grow each year. I find it so touching to know that through my writing I can help others with food intolerances find the courage to dine out while still providing some entertainment to those who are not restricted in their diet. These days I find my inbox filling up with invitations and product trials at an alarmingly fast rate. Because of my long shifts and late hours, there are many events that I have to knock back and I need to ensure to only choose the ones that I think are relevant to me and my readers.
Shortly after my relaxing weekend down south with Mum I flew over to Melbourne on a whirlwind business trip and managed to squeeze in time to hang with my Dad and Stepmum. The old saying that the apple never falls far from the tree rings true with me and my father with specific respect to our love for food. He is the sole person responsible for introducing me to a wide range of exotic foods as a child, some of which weren’t always easy to get hold of in Adelaide back in the 80’s. By the time I was ten, I had tried foods such as snails, foie gras and even raw sea urchin and we bonded over every one of those foodie moments. He always seemed to proud that I was open minded to eat new things as my sister was the total opposite being so finicky she wouldn’t even eat plain cooked fish.
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I never have enough time. I struggle to relax and seem to thrive on fast paced hyperactivity. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that this lifestyle started to take its toll prompting me to seek medical advice when I could no longer even run without collapsing on the couch. As a direct result I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia which then led onto discovering my gluten and fructose issues.
I stick to my gluten free diet religiously and find this is easy to do as there are life threatening risks for me if I don’t. Coeilacs who eat gluten raise their risks of intestinal cancer significantly along with risking developing a bunch of other horrible diseases. In contrast, I find following my fructose friendly diet much, much more difficult to adhere to. Whilst eating fructose does cause some unpleasant effects, it doesn’t causing any permanent damage to my body. I consequently wax and wane from being vigilantly fructose friendly to chancing the risk of a gut ache for something tasty to eat.
If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
I don’t know what it is about wet, windy nights that sometimes inspires me to want to leave the comfort of my home and eat out. Mostly when I get these fanciful urges, the Boy will sensibly put his foot down and insist we stay at home where it is warm and dry. However on occasions, for reasons I have yet to pin point, he will sporadically and unpredictably consent to my absurd proposition and off we go together with overcoats and matching umbrellas in hand. Whenever this glorious union in thought occurs, I get disproportionately excited like a child that has just been given an oversized bag of candy. I have to love this guy for always keeping me on my toes!
After a couple of teasing days of sunshine, our Perth weather turned sour and my bizarre desire to head out to a restaurant in the rain returned. I wanted to check out a relatively new bar opened in Applecross called Bad Apples Bar and after enticing the Boy with offers of beer and pizza he willingly accepted.
Many of you know that my day job is totally unrelated to food. I am a vet, and this means a career of long hours, late nights and a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Attaining a work life balance has always been a battle for me and the Boy plays a huge role in making me see the bigger picture. Whilst I would never neglect to care for a patient that needs me, to be at my best I need to stay fit and well rested otherwise, like many of my colleagues, I face burn out.
Depression is rife among veterinarians, in our profession we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. A frightening fact, yet, one that most people in our industry have had to face one way or another.
Despite knowing that the menu at Ace Pizza is devoid of gluten free pizza options, this has been a venue that has remained on my wish list for some time. Don’t be fooled by their name, whilst I’m told Ace’s pizzas are far from shabby it’s their share plates that I was keen to try. Being paid monthly means when we hit the end of the month we are scratching for a cheap place to eat out without compromising on our needs for quality or flavour. I was hoping Ace Pizza would fulfil this basic need.
Dishes are certainly cheap, reasonably sized and served with lickity split, no fuss speed. Perhaps too much so as within about ten minutes of placing our order all of our dishes had made their way to our table. There were a number of gluten free and vegetarian options to suit both our needs however as is often the case, we ordered far too much food.
One of my most popular recipes on the blog is my coconut flour banana bread. It is one of our staples at home and whenever we have browning bananas in the fruit bowl I will get a request from the Boy to bake it. Since I first published the recipe in early 2013, I have progressively made some tweaks to improve it whilst not taking away from its purpose of being somewhat healthy.
I found that by adding in chia seeds to my original recipe along with beefing it up with a few more eggs, the end result is banana bread with much improved texture without any of its predecessors crumbliness. This banana bread toasts beautifully and with the increased fibre content of the coconut flour it can be quite filling.
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.
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
There are a small handful of restaurants dotted around Perth that I have particularly soft spot for. The mention of their name will always bring a smile to my face and propositions to return will always be met with a resounding yes. Must Wine bar is one of these venues. I have enjoyed countless meals in this classic French bistro with friends and family alike and I feel that I can always depend upon them to deliver polished service and quality dishes. Of course this meant that upon receiving an invitation to return to sample their new Bistro lunch special I was quick to schedule this lunch date in.
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.