One thing I have learnt from the Boy is that I need to take more time out to relax. Relaxing does not come naturally to me and generally the only way I can do it is if I am forced. Last weekend we drove down to the South West to stay at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a five-star beach front resort only minutes’ drive from Dunsborough and Yallingup.
The reason for our single night stay at Bunker Bay was to sample the resorts’s launch of their new High Tea. High Tea is available at Pullman Bunker Bay resort every day of the week until the 20th of December, and Executive Chef Grant Murray is more than happy to accommodate for guests like myself with dietary requirements.
We sat out on the sunny deck overlooking the wonderful ocean view where we could see glimpses of majestic whales out in the bay. Regrettably I didn’t come prepared with a zoom lens to capture their beauty.
Being able to enjoy gluten, the Boy’s high tea was plated separately to mine to avoid cross contamination and as our waitress brought over our tiers of food we both let out a sigh of pleasure. Each plate was an array of vibrant spring colour and neither of us could wait to tuck in!
Chef Murray enthusiastically spoke to us about his focus on utilising fresh, seasonal produce and wherever possible he will obtain his ingredients locally. All the pastries and baked items are made in their own kitchen, with our muffins and scones coming just out of the oven that morning.
My gluten free savoury course included a cucumber, tarragon and chicken sandwich made with compressed cucumber to give more flavour. The tomato salad contained tomatoes that were grown especially for the restaurant on a property only a few kilometres away. Nothing beats the taste of home-grown tomatoes.
There was no sensation of feeling like I was missing out on a gluten free diet, with my second tier of baked goods tasting just as good the Boy’s looked. My scone didn’t crumble apart like many gluten free versions and my muffin was still warm.
My final top tier of high tea was the prettiest of all, decorated in fresh edible flowers and plump blueberries. My mini tartlets were filled with juicy fresh Western Australian mango. The little meringues had all the layers of textures that a quality meringue must have; a powder poof crunchy shell with a sumptuous gooey centre. Perfection.
The Boy’s standard high tea looked very similar to mine, except that of course it contained gluten. This is the second time he has joined me for high tea and whilst I doubt he will start swilling hot tea any time soon, I can be sure he will happily join me on my next one.
The Boy’s dessert course was just a pretty as my gluten free version, and included a selection of macarons, profiteroles and chocolate mousse cake.
For our accommodation we stayed in a garden view studio villa. Our room was elegantly appointed with a comfortable, king sized bed and a fully equipped kitchenette. Not that we ever needed it to cook for ourselves!
The bathroom was spacious and modern, complete with fluffy bathrobes and slippers along with luxury amenities for those who forgot their toiletries.
Being such a brief stay, we decided to dine at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Other Side of the Moon for our evening meal. Our bubbly natured waitress was very knowledgeable with respect to what was gluten free and what could be adapted on the menu.
We started off our evening with some natural oysters from Coffin Bay served with shallot vinegar.
For our entrée, we opted to share the local South West tasting plate for two. For those with less agreeable dining companions, this tasting plate was also available as a single serve for a lower cost. In the centre of the plate was a gluten free adapted serve of Geographe Bay squid fried with a spicy Asian herb salad and nahm jim dressing. We were advised to start in the middle of the plate and work our way out.
The second tasting was a Swiss brown mushroom filled with confit Baldivis rabbit on bacon and Jerusalem artichoke purée.
We ended the tasting experience with some thin slices of Margaret River venison carpaccio and local pickled onions. Of course I left the onions for the Boy to gobble as I’m not good with the added fructose. A gluten free crouton with olive tapenade accompanied the small serve of venison.
The Boy ordered the duo of beef for his main course. A lightly pan-seared Harvey beef tenderloin accompanied a pot of beef cheek daube. A scoop of truffle mash and cute little heirloom carrots added in some vegetable goodness and was drizzled in a Capel Vale Cabernet Sauvignon jus.
We also ordered a side of fries which our waitress told us would be cooked in clean oil to avoid any gluten contamination. The Boy suggested that perhaps an order of fries on top of all the rest of the food we had eaten so far may be considered somewhat excessive. I was pleased to see our waitress was on the same page as me as she agreed that not only is there a second stomach for desserts, that there is in fact a specific “potato stomach” to fit in potatoes in all forms: be that fries, chips, wedges, whatever, wherever 😉
For my main choice, I ordered the daily special of roasted duck breast. It was served on a bed of quinoa, parsnip purée, and locally grown golden beets. The duck was delicately tender and soft, literally melting in my mouth without a hint of dryness.
Whilst I had big ambitions of pushing the boat out for the evening and having both dessert and cheese, when it came to the crunch I sadly realised I only had room for one or the other. It was a hard choice as there were a decent selection of local and imported cheese on offer. I turned to the Boy for guidance. He had already spotted the Simmo’s ice cream menu with no less than ten flavours to choose from. It was decided. We would have dessert.
The daily dessert special was light, refreshing and perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth. A lemon-scented toasted marshmallow cloud with fresh mango and lychee gel on lime granita had an interesting tango of sweet and citrus flavours. I reluctantly let the Boy taste a mouthful as he even more reluctantly let me sample his ice creams. He is generally very easy going with letting me eat off his plate, except when it is ice cream. He becomes very territorial of every mouthful!
The following morning we opted for a light room service breakfast before taking a stroll around the beautiful resort. There is a 24 hour room service menu offering lots of gluten free options including pizzas and other main meals for late night snacking. The beach is only a short walk from the villas, and is such a beautiful spot with the characteristic stunning white sands and clear blue water that the region is well known for.
After a enjoyable walk along the beach, the Boy and I headed to the resort spa; Vie where we had booked a massage in the couples room along with a Pevonia signature facial. It has taken me some time to convert the Boy to enjoy spa treatments but each time he comes along he warms further to the concept.
Sadly, our whirlwind weekend was coming to an end and prior to departing we took some time to relax in the bistro area of the resort where they have a tapas menu serving small plates that highlight on the local produce that is seasonally available. Again there were both gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Our vegetarian dish of roasted cauliflower was exceedingly addictive with charred grilled piquillo peppers, toasted macadamia and pomegranate. It came with creamy tahini for a tangy hit of extra flavour. I loved the presentation with lots of splashes of colour and fun.
Our second dish of Fremantle octopus was adapted to be gluten free by the omission of chorizo. It was paired with smoked yoghurt, local olives, edamame and grilled tomato. I have a tendency to be quite fussy with my octopus having be very spoilt in my time in Spain. It is far too common that it is not prepared well and the meat ends up being as chewy as an old sock. This octopus did not disappoint my critical opinions, each piece was deliciously tender and did not give my jaw a work out to chew. It was a perfect way to end our very short stay.
For much of the drive home to Perth, the Boy and I talked about making plans for when we could next return to stay at Bunker Bay. It is rare that we simultaneously relax together and despite such a short stay, this trip was a success. The resort has enough options to be able to stay there and not leave, but is located so close to the wineries and tourist sights for the Margaret River region such that if you don’t want to stay put you don’t have to. Suffice to say we have already booked our next trip 😉
High Tea at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is available at the resort’s bistro until 20 December 2015.
Cost is $37 per person with a Dilmah specialty tea, barista-made coffee or hot chocolate, or $45 per person to add a glass of sparkling wine. Kid’s Menu available for children up to 12 years. Bookings require 48 hours’ notice with pre-payment at the time of reservation. With advance notice, dietary requirement can be catered for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Pullman Bunker Bay resort and received her night accommodation and high tea for two at no cost. She paid in full for her dinner at Other Side of the Moon, for the tapas at Tapestry and for her Spa treatments at Vie.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 42 Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste WA | (08) 9756 9100 | Website
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
Some people choose to mix their work life with their personal life and others prefer to keep them totally separate. I imagine that it would be easy to separate the two if you didn’t hold any passion or joy in your working hours. For me, I tend to submerge myself in my career, sometimes to the level of obsession, such that it is impossible to not develop friendships with both my colleagues and my clients. Occasionally I manage to combine both careers in one, connecting all the dots by creating a friendship with a client from the vet hospital that also happens to read my blog. Conversation runs very freely when you can talk to me about the two things I love the most…..food…..and cats!
Of course the logical thing to do when you have succeeded in finding this trifecta of friendship is to spend quality time to eat together. So, after a few false starts due to busy schedules, we managed to tally up a night to head out with my friends-clients-fellow crazy cat ladies to Cocos Restaurant in South Perth. Being a closet crazy cat man the Boy was happy to join us for dinner for a night of cat talk. Surprisingly despite Cocos being something of a Perth icon I had never eaten at there and welcomed the suggestion.
Cocos Restaurant overlooks the Swan River to gaze onto the expanding Perth City skyline. That is, mind you, if you can secure a table riverside. It is a deceptively large restaurant packed full of tables and wasn’t exactly the fine dining location that I had pictured in my mind. Our table was tucked away at the back of the restaurant with naught but a glimpse of the city lights. The menu showcased a lot of local WA produce with marron and Dhufish featuring alongside Cone Bay barramundi. I was informed by our waitress that there are a number of gluten free options.
I started with the duo of salmon; two types of cured salmon plated out generously and served with a citrus, fennel and herb salad. The outer layer of salmon was cured in beetroot and ginger which imparted a sumptuous red hue to the fish and the inner layer was cured with vodka and Pernod. Some of the fish pieces were a little dry on the edges like they had been prolongedly exposed to air however each mouthful still left a clean aftertaste on the palate without any stale fish odour.
The Boy was feeling peckish and ordered the duck risotto for a more substantial entrée. Soft pinkish strips of pan seared duck breast topped a creamy orange and thyme risotto. The citrusy flavours made this a lighter style of risotto perfect for a first course. One of our friends ordered the beef Carpaccio served with baby capers, chilli, truffle oil and manchego crisps and it was the hugest serve of beef Carpaccio I have ever seen. It was not an entrée for the light-hearted and she kindly offered much of her dish to share as she couldn’t finish it!
For main I chose the Geraldton Dhufish. I realise that eating fish for both entrée and main is a little one sided and maybe narrow minded but there are some days that I just really feel like seafood and figure that I need to listen to my body! The Dhufish fillet was ever so slightly overcooked leaving part of the fillet a little dry. It was served with a tossed salad of Swiss chard and roasted beets.
The Boy ordered the beef fillet on a parsnip and onion puree with a red wine jus. His meat was cooked precisely to order rare and sliced effortless like butter.
One of our friends ordered the saffron linguini pasta with sautéed Moreton Bay Bug tails. It had a bit of a kick to it with added chilli.
My gluten free dessert option was the vanilla pannacotta which was served in an hour shaped glass so I couldn’t test the jiggle factor. There were a lot of contrasting textures to add interest to this dish with strawberry jelly, fresh strawberries, crisp meringue and strawberry ice cream. Happy with this option indeed.
Also ordered at the table was the Bombe Alaska which sadly it wasn’t gluten free so I didn’t get to taste it. It consisted of a chunk of sticky date pudding and homemade honey macadamia ice cream encased in swirls of meringue in a puddle of addictive butterscotch sauce. I cannot deny I was a bit jealous!
It was no surprise the Boy ordered himself the selected homemade ice creams and sorbets although he was a bit perturbed by the “hair” on top of his dessert. He loves to proclaim that he is not a fan of Persian fairy floss yet he always seems to eat it when it’s on his plate so I’m guessing it wasn’t too bad!
Disclaimer: Chompchomp has no shame in admitting that she is a crazy cat lady, additionally that she loves hanging out with crazy cat ladies, that she is married to a crazy cat man and, basically, that cats rock her world. Here’s a picture of her dinner companion’s adorable boy Ralph to cement this statement. A very handsome lad indeed.
Coco’s Riverside Bar and Restaurant
85 The South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WAZ 6151 | (08) 9474 3030 | http://www.westvalley.com.au/
Reflecting back on last year I have a mixed bag of emotions. It was a roller-coaster experience of opportunity coupled with some of my darkest times in years. I expected 2014 to be a wonderful year of post–wedding bliss but sadly the Boy and I were not that lucky. A family feud that commenced in the months before our wedding resulted in my family fragmenting apart, and then to add to this heartbreak my business came very close to a similar fate. Worst of all, one of my friends was tragically killed in a horrific car accident.
Whilst trying to deal with all of this turmoil, I injected my energy into writing and saw this humble blog blossom into something even my critical mind can be proud of.
As direct result of such a year I neglected spending time with many of my friends. The only occasions I would see many of them would be at invited foodie events and even then this would be a rushed and distracted moment in time.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend my time more wisely and make more effort to hang with those I heart. Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse and Perth Food Truck Rumble is one of the first food bloggers that I became close friends with. We first met after both being accepted to attend Eat Drink Blog ‘12 in Adelaide. Both being a little quirky in our own individual ways, we connected immediately and have been great friends ever since.
Following with my New Years promise to myself, I met with Ai-Ling for a ladies lunch at Circa in Mount Lawley. Being able to chat without all the fan fare of an official foodie event was such a better way to share company. I need to make time to do this more often.
Circa do not indicate on their menu gluten free options however after a brief chat to our waitress she was confidently able to let me know what I could have. She showed a deeper level of understanding of what constitutes a gluten free dish explaining that some dishes don’t contain gluten however they will still have some contamination and therefore would not be suitable for Coeliacs and those very sensitive.
The chicken parfait was served with toasted gluten free bread. We were kindly offered normal bread for Ai-Ling to enjoy and each serve of bread was served on separate plates to ensure no mixing of crumbs. The parfait was velvety smooth and reminded me of the enormous dish Mum always makes for us around Christmas time. She does everything from scratch and we eat parfait on toast for days until it’s all devoured.
For our main we shared the roasted duck, a tender slightly pink breast served on cauliflower purée and charred cabbage with a sweet apricot jus. Not the most fructose friendly of choices but I have been eating so much vegan dishes in my post-Christmas guilt that I was craving some poultry.
Sadly we ran out of time to hit the dessert menu. I don’t think there was a silent moment for the whole two hours that we sat together and it felt like our time was over in a flash. Of all the lessons I learnt last year, one of those is that life can be short. Sometimes a lot shorter than you were ever expecting. Taking time out from the rat race of life to laugh, connect and share with those you love is so important.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp paid in full for this meal as a gesture of friendship however also because Ai-Ling actually ran out of time and had to race off for an appointment. Time really did escape us!
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.
It was a stormy night in the South-west, sadly not the weather I would have liked for our whirlwind weekender with the Boy, Mum and her other half. We were staying in a chalet about twenty minutes south of Dunsborough so in order to make our driving through the rain easier, I punched our destination into my Tomtom and sat back to let it do the hard work for me. This turned out to be a tremendous mistake and over forty-five minutes later we arrived at Piari & Co with everyone tired and grumpy with me at my error.
Starting a meal in a bad mood is never a good idea and to further add to the situation the restaurant was completely packed and full of noisy, rather drunk customers. One customer in particular had a laugh that resembled the whoop of a baboon. The Boy detests noisy venues, I refer to this as one of his Grandpa habits. Additionally, my stepdad wears a hearing aid in one ear which in these sort of situations relays deafening feedback down into his ear making listening to conversation impossible. I took the liberty of ordering some starters while they sat in silence reading over the menus.
The lighting was romantically dim as is often the way which increased the pressure of the evening for me as photography is very challenging in such environments. I tried to get photos as quickly as possible so we could start to eat and lighten up. One of the specials of the day were freshly shucked oysters topped with blood orange granita. Slightly sweet and slightly tangy, we slurped these up quickly.
I also ordered the seared Esperance scallops. Just seeing the name Esperance on paper brings a warm glow to my heart as this is where my darling Bestie lives. (***I miss you!***) Whilst small in size, these little morsels were seared to golden brown and served with celeriac remoulade, compressed nashi and crispy shreds of duck meat. I haven’t tried duck with scallops before and found with the sweetness of the pear it balanced well.
Mum is a pork lover and despite her claims of not wanting to eat too much so early in our feasting weekend, she still was brave enough to take on the pork main course. The slow cooked slab of free range Big Red pork belly was slightly over cooked making it a little too dry for her liking. She much preferred the accompanying pulled pork shoulder salad and found the meat in this to be moist and succulent.
I wanted to pace myself for the weekend ahead of us too and ordered the fish of the day for a lighter, healthy meal. The fish was a thick fillet of Mulloway. This is in my humble opinion is one of the finest tasting fish in Australia. The fish was served on a bed of smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée and topped with garden fresh charred corn and peas.
The Boy was having one of his unpredictable meat eating moments and ordered the grass-fed beef cheek. Like most of the ingredients used at Piari & Co, his beef was locally sourced from the South West and slow cooked to the point of meltable soft tenderness.
I had seen pictures of Piari & Co desserts on Instagram and wanted to be able to partake but after having eaten all day there was not a lot of room left. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way so the four of us ordered a single serve of the Bombe Alaska to share, complete with four spoons.
Under the spikey gooey dome of meringue was a chewy, syrupy slice of gluten free pistachio cake. Drizzles of tangy passionfruit coulis lifted the near overpowering sweetness making this a delectable choice. With the crafty work of four eager spoons flashing about quickly, the Bombe Alaska disappeared in a blink of a second.
It seemed that I was the only one at the table not bothered by the noise and sadly the high pitched cackles and racket tainted the experience somewhat for my loved ones. I am a person who loves the hustle and bustle of activity and noise makes me feel alive. Take the drunken whoops of the women at the table next to us out of the equation and I’m certain that we all would have had a fabulous evening. I guess this is a good reason to return…..hopefully not again on the same day as those locals!Disclaimer: Chompchomp would like to disclose that on certain occasions when dining out she may in fact be just like one of those noisy customers as unfortunately she was born without any form of voice volume control. For neighbouring customers on these evenings she is honestly apologetic however cannot promise it won’t happen again. Piari & Co 5/54 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9756 7977 | www.piariandco.com.au
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.
Dad and Tess live in a modern apartment just off Flinders Lane so when I stay with them I never have to travel far for something good to eat. They eat out a lot, probably even more than the Boy and I do, and are well known regulars in most of the good restaurants in their area. For our night together Tess booked us in at one of their current favourites Tonka, a modern Indian-Asian restaurant run by the team behind the famous Coda. We were warmly greeted as if we were family and after some air kisses and smiles we were shown to our table.
The waitress informed me that catering for gluten free was no problem for them at all and they would bring out a succession of share plates for us all to enjoy. We started off with the tuna tartare mixed with tart pomegranate, ginger and fresh wasabi and served with rice pappadums. Whilst not the most generous serve, the tuna was fresh and succulent with each cube melting in your mouth.
Our second starter was the smoked trout. With flavours more likely found in Thailand than India, I appreciated that this was indeed Asian fusion. The soft shreds of trout mixed with pomelo, coconut and a hint of chill were served on a betel leaf making each one a perfect bite sized morsel.
The zucchini flowers were prepared with a rice flour batter making them totally gluten free much to my delight. It isn’t often I get to enjoy tempura. The batter was a tad thicker than I would prefer, I like my tempura to be super light. They were stuffed with gooey smoked paneer and urad dal, a type of bean similar to mung beans.
The Hervey Bay scallops were small but plump served on a spiced cauliflower puree with sweet peppers and crispy fried pancetta. Although each serve was barely a mouthful, the flavours complemented each other beautifully leaving a rich creamy after-taste.
The final savoury dish of the night was the Rajasthani duck curry which stood out as the most exceptional dish for the evening although my stepmum informed me that the duck curry at Coda is even better. The meat slithered clean off the bone and the curry sauce was an interesting mix of sweet, tangy and spicy flavours. The waitress brought roti to the table for Dad and Tess in addition to some gluten free pappadums for me. This popular dish was featured as a recipe in Gourmet Traveller last year.
Tonka’s gluten free dessert consisted of a play on banana, chocolate and coconut flavours. Banana parfait was made using jaggery, a traditional sweetener popular in Indian cuisine made from a concentrated product of sugarcane and date palms. This was paired with some rich chocolate mousse, coconut sorbet and sprinkled with zingy lime sherbet.
My Dad often claims that he is not a dessert person although I have busted him on several occasions devouring a whole bag of liquorice to himself in one sitting. Apparently this doesn’t count as dessert. Happy to take a hit for the team, Tess and I shared the dessert together leaving him to enjoy his late night espresso instead.
After spending a weekend relaxing with Mum down south and then another with my Dad in Melbourne I feel content to have reconnected with them both. It has pricked my guilt conscious and reminded me to be a better daughter and make more effort in the future to travel across our vast country to visit them.Disclaimer: My father is well known for his generosity and gave me no option of paying for our dinner despite me offering. Also, it is important to note that the venue was made aware they had a food blogger in the house as my Dad took great pride in announcing this to our waitress as we were sat down at our table. Whilst I generally try to dine incognito so I can get a feel for what it is like for every customer, I cannot help but smile at his zeal for Chompchomp’s existence. Tonka 20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne VIC 3000 | (03) 9650 3155 | tonkarestaurant.com.au
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.
Having been together for nearly seventeen years, the Boy and I know each other too well and he can sniff out the beginnings of me getting close to my breaking point from miles out. As I reached the end of working nine consecutive long days he suggested we take time out from our weekend chores and plan a weekend long lunch.
Normally I am the one that will select where we eat out due to the ever hungry thirst for content this blog can create. Conversely, the Boy is not interested in hitting the hot spots but would rather take any opportunity for a drive into the countryside. He proposed we head back to the Bickley Valley so I promptly booked us a table at the Vineyard Kitchen located at Brookside Winery.
I recall visiting this beautiful winery during the Bickley Valley Harvest Festival however on that day they were fully booked and so we only got to taste and purchase their wines. Over a year had passed and I was very keen to return.
We started off at the cellar door where we were warmly greeted by the owners Peter and Fay Fels. Their smiles were so infectious that before we knew it we were working our way through tasting all of their wines. Our favourites were the 2012 Methode Champenoise and the 2012 ‘One Acre Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are a number of gluten free and vegetarian options on the restaurant menu with a strong focus on local produce some of which is grown on their property themselves. I started with the roast beetroot and goats cheese brulée.
A whole roasted beetroot had been cored in the centre, filled with goats cheese and served warm. There was a thin layer of crackable toffee over the top but it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. It was an interesting dish and totally worked as a creative but hearty vegetarian entrée.
The Boy ordered the pan-fried sardines which were crumbed and served with a light salad. A random choice for him as although I love sardines, I cannot say I ever would have considered him to be a fan. Regardless of this he still enjoyed them but admitted it wasn’t really his thing.
For my main dish I ordered the twice cooked duck leg. The duck meat slithered of the bone without any encouragement and was served on a generous bed of creamy porcini and mascarpone risotto. The skin had a thin crispiness to it such that I temporarily cast away all my recent concerns about weight gain and ate the lot. You only live once right?
On our recent trip to Esperance the Boy fell in love with things wrapped in filo, sampling baked Camembert cheese and a fish and prawn curry both wrapped in this flaky treat. Upon seeing the slow cooked lamb shoulder parcel on the menu he caved into a rare moment of meat eating.
Unlike me, the Boy is a man of few words, and my best way at measuring a dish’s awesomeness factor is by the amount of head nods and moans. The lamb shoulder scored high in both of these important measurements!
As we ordered dessert I was told by our jovial waiter that the gluten free mixed berry clafoutis would be a twenty minute wait. This was actually a small blessing in disguise as I was nearly bursting at the seams with all the food we had eaten so far.
Clafoutis is one of those French desserts that makes me feel a little nostalgic for my ancestry and upbringing. Traditionally made with cherries, this dish works well with any slightly zingy, juicy fruit.
The Vineyard Kitchen’s clafoutis was worth the wait. The balance of tart and sweet flavours was executed perfectly with plump berries embedded in the thick, slightly wobbly baked almond batter. I get so excited when my gluten free dessert is interesting!
The Boy ordered the dark chocolate peanut butter pie with vanilla ice cream, presumably in part because it came with ice cream. Whilst the two of us have an enormous amount of compatibilities, one of our few differences is our palate for desserts. He can really take or leave them and will always be satisfied with a simple bowl of ice cream.
Having wanted to visit the Vineyard Kitchen for such a long time there was a risk that it wouldn’t live up to the hype I created in my mind. But despite the long wait to return back for lunch, it was impossible not to fall in love with this place. The quaint gardens, the warm welcome at the cellar door, the prompt and relaxed service and most importantly the award-winning wines accompanied with sumptuous food were all key ingredients in teleporting me from a state of frazzled burn out to total relaxation.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of her husband, otherwise know as “The Boy” and was lucky enough to also score a case of wine from him to continue to drink once she arrived home. Vineyard Kitchen 5 Loaring Road, Bickley WA 6076 | (08) 6162 2070 | www.thevineyardkitchen.net.au
Australia has just announced the inception of its very first Humane Food Region. Being a patriotic Western Australian I was so proud to learn that this region was the Swan Valley. The Humane Food movement is an initiative from the RSPCA to recognise businesses that are committed to using food that can be defined as animal welfare friendly. This means more than just labelling products as cage free eggs and free range pork. It translates to these animals being able to have a better quality of life and respects their need to be able to live in an environment that is more natural for them.
Whilst the obvious solution to avoid these animal’s potential suffering is to switch to eating a vegan diet, it is not realistic to expect the entire general population to make this paradigm shift. The Humane Food movement aims at achieving the highest animal welfare standards possible in these industries in order to ensure that these innocent creatures are treated kindly and live a happier life without fear and stress.
The RSPCA have a very stringent process to be accredited as a Humane Food producer and lists all of their accredited businesses on the Choose Wisely website.
Currently there are 30 restaurants in the Swan Valley region that have signed up with the City of Swan to support the Humane Food region program and this list is growing in number each week.
I was invited to attend the Humane Region launch party at Sandalford Estate last week. The evening was catered for by Sandalford with plenty of gluten free options for me to nibble on.
After a warm welcome from TV personality Verity James, we received a lovely speech from Lynne Bradshaw who is the president of RSPCA WA. Her passion for animal welfare spans back for decades and she has worked for the RSPCA for over ten years.
After the speeches were finished we got under way with the evening’s entertainment; the cook off! Six of the region’s top chefs agreed to participate using only humanely sourced produce.
Kiren Mainwairing from Dear Friends and Coop Dining cooked a slow cooked duck egg with steamed bio-dynamic vegetables, sun choke chips and fennel pollen.
Slow cooked eggs are one of Kiren’s signature dishes and I am sure you have heard me rave on about them in the past as they are out of this world. With a delicately translucent egg white and perfectly molten yolk we stood around to watch the judging panel croon over every mouthful.
Mike Price from Sittella Winery made a stunning dish of poached higher welfare chicken breast with avocado and a creamy tarragon sauce. This was topped with a sautéed Moreton Bay bug tail. Using the rest of the chicken, Mike made a compressed chicken leg terrine and topped it with wafer thin crispy skin, fried liver and baby carrots.
This dish was considerably more substantial in size and I could see that the judges each trying to pace themselves so they wouldn’t be stuffed at the end! This dish was entirely gluten free and Mike was kind enough to hand a whole dish over to me to enjoy. I promptly ran off into the crowd with a beaming smile looking for the Boy to share it with.
The lovely smiling Caroline Taylor from Taylor’s Art and Coffee House made her very popular Italian eggs. She illustrated beautifully that you don’t have to use elaborate cooking techniques and loads of ingredients to make a dish that everyone will enjoy especially if Don Hancey’s beaming smile was anything to go by!
Her Italian eggs are made with whipping cream, chorizo, Danish feta and button mushrooms. Also being a gluten free dish she kindly gave me a portion to try. It was the perfect balance of flavours and has inspired me to return back to Taylor’s to have my own full serve to myself.
Manu Fillaudeau from Fillaudeau’s Restaurant prepared smoked Linley Valley free range pork ribs shredded with cabbage stew, turned carrots and potatoes. His dish was also gluten free however before I could steal a mouthful the judges had torn their soft bread rolls apart and dunked it in the richly coloured stew. I didn’t want to risk any gluten contamination so I consoled myself by nabbing a singular potato.
Fiona Lamont from Lamont’s made a very simple but incredibly flavoursome dish of parmesan chicken tenderloins with roast tomatoes, avocado and spinach. I was feeling very well kept as she also put aside a little gluten free portion without any crumb so I could try it too. The chicken was as tender as butter literally melting in my mouth.
The final dish was made by Dean Williams from Sandalford Wines. He created San Choy Bau using Linley Valley Pork accompanied by prawn eggs rolls. This dish was not gluten free so I didn’t get to have a nibble but would be easy to adapt using gluten free soy and Hoi sin sauces.
This wasn’t an event designed to be competitive so there was no winner to announce. I am sure the panel members were pleased with this fact as it would have been hard to choose. I loved how each dish reflected the chef’s individuality across a wide range of cuisine styles. Looks like the Boy and I have a few more places in the Valley to add to our wish list!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the City of Swan. Dear Friends is currently closed. Kiren’s other restaurant is Co Op Dining (read my reviews for Dear Friends and Co-op Dining) 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au/ Sittella Winery 100 Barrett Street, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 2600 | www.sittella.com.au Taylor’s Art & Coffee House (read my review) 510 Great Northern Highway, Middle Swan WA 6056 | 0447 441 223 | www.taylorscafe.com.au
Fillaudeau’s Restaurant Located in Pinelli Wines, 30 Bennett Street, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 7733 | www.fillaudeaus.com.au Lamont’s Swan Valley 85 Bisdee Road, Millendon WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4485 | www.lamonts.com.au/venues/swan-valley Sandalford Estate Winery 3210 West Swan Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9755 6213 | www.sandalford.com
There are two components that I need in order to happily publish a blog post about a restaurant; I need pretty photos and I need an interesting story. If either of those are lacking then it doesn’t matter how good the experience was I just cannot bring myself to publish it. Call it pride, vanity, perfectionism, whatever it is I cannot control it. My first visit to La Cholita, a Mexican bar in Northbridge presented me with this exact problem.
It was a great night out with fellow blogger Foodie Cravings which had originally started off with plans for us to attend an Eat Drink Perth movie event. However on arrival we found out there was no gluten free fare available so our evening evolved into an impromptu night of tacos, tostadas and wine at La Cholita. We laughed, shared stories and ate until we nearly popped; something that isn’t exactly unusual for the two of us. The next day I looked back on my photos and my heart sunk. They were all total crap!!!
Determined not to be beaten by bad lighting, over the following weeks I tried to encourage the Boy to join me on a return visit to La Cholita to acquire the focused, colourful captures of this venue’s food that I needed. Our first two attempts were stalled due to illness and family obligations until finally on a weekend where we had no plans I locked in a lunch date days in advance. Unbeknownst to me, the lovely weather man also locked some plans, his were for a severe weather warning. Awesome. Refusing to be beaten again, we headed into Northbridge hitting William Street at exactly the same time as the downpour.
I reached across to the back seat of my car to grab my umbrella only to realise I had moved it into the car boot. I quickly jumped out of the car splashing through the riverine that was once the street gutter to peer into my empty boot. Argh! No umbrella in there either! By this point I was soaked through. Admitting defeat I ran to the parking meter grabbed a ticket and sprinted with the Boy down the street to arrive at La Cholita resembling a drowned rat.
I already knew what to order having had a feast there only weeks before. Most of their menu is gluten free excluding the quesadillas, the fish and jalapeño tacos and the flour tortillas. The guacamole can be served gluten free if you request the crispy corn tortillas instead.
A word of warning to the fructose malabsorbers out there, there was onion in many of the dishes on the menu. I decided to live with the consequences as my reaction to onion isn’t serious like that with gluten. I figure eating a little bit here and there on occasions is hardly going to kill me as I am so strict in avoiding it at home.
I ordered a selection of four tacos which included vegetarian, prawn, beef cheek and slow cooked pork. The Boy’s vego option contained some spiced pumpkin, pickled cabbage and queso fresco. The tacos were soft and fresh making them easy to eat without falling apart.
The Boy will sometimes eat seafood so given there was only one vegetarian taco on offer, he ate the prawn taco for his second option. Two crunchy grilled prawns topped with some papaya salad, avocado and finely chopped cos lettuce made this a light option for those not wanting to eat the more heavy meatier choices.
I ate the remaining two tacos; the beef cheek and the slow cooked pork. Surprisingly the pork was my favourite as I am not the hugest fan of eating pig. Soft shreds of pork filled the taco to the brim topped with a single grilled piece of pineapple which had been cooked just long enough for the sugars to caramelise on the surface.
We also ordered some tostadas which are basically crispy corn chips with toppings. The spiced duck with refried beans had a decent amount of heat in it which was just what I needed to defrost my soaked, cold bones however the Boy found it too spicy for his tastebuds. He preferred the creamy crab with avocado although he did comment that the crab did not have a lot of flavour.
There was a break in the rain so knowing La Cholita’s gluten free dessert options were limited we quickly paid and marched down to James Street where I knew there was a Taiwanese dessert place called Meet Fresh. This place is very popular over in Sydney and this was our first store that had opened in WA. It was the late afternoon and we were the only customers.
On my recommendation the Boy ordered the high tower of supreme mango crushed ice with vanilla ice cream. It contained a decent portion of fresh mango cascading over the syrupy sweet mountain of ice.
Unlike the Boy, I am a big lover of Taiwanese style desserts however I am a little bit inexperienced in that I never really know what I can order. I always have to double check then triple check what is gluten free. I ended up choosing the herbal jelly with taro, red beans and tapioca pearls. The pearls were chewy and sweet but I found the herbal jelly a bit flavourless compared to that I had at Taro Taro.
Knowing the next downpour wasn’t far away the Boy put his spoon down defeated by his mango mountain and suggested we head back to the car before we get drenched through again. My dessert was significantly smaller than his and so I had pretty much finished it. I happily agreed and gathered my things. As soon as we piled into the car the heavens opened. It was our first bit of good timing that day and I can say it was greatly appreciated!Chompchomp’s meal at La Cholita was a self funded taco feast paid for with soaking wet notes pulled from her drenched jeans pocket. La Cholita 279 William Street, Northbridge, WA 6003 | Facebook $$ (Small plates $5-15, Mains $26-28) www.meetfresh.net Taiwanese desserts $5-10 each
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)
At my business we run an externship with the veterinary students every year which gives us the opportunity to put them through their paces. It provides a great way for them to gain further experience and confidence before they head out into the big wide world of employment. It is often during these externships that certain individuals shine and a couple of years back one of these externships led to our decision to offer the student a job.
Since officially joining our team, she has continued to impress us all with her standard of knowledge and dedication to her career. There have been many nights she has stayed back late with no complaints, come in on her days off and pitched in to help others without being asked. She is a valued team member who appears to be fast tracking herself to success. As a token of our appreciation I took her out for dinner with a couple of my business partners.
Thankfully she is also a foodie so I gave her a list of a couple of restaurants to let her choose the venue. She chose one of her favourites; Nine Fine Food. This was my second time returning to Nine Fine Food after visiting them earlier in the year with my dearest blogging friends. Most of my photos from this first visit didn’t turn out very well due to my excessive consumption of espresso martinis at an event prior. My shaking, caffeinated hands produced a number of quite interesting artefacts however very few of the resulting photos were what I would call “blog worthy”. I was keen for a second chance to get it right.
In addition to their standard menu, Nine Fine Food offers two set menus: “Tokutoku” a three course meal for $53 per person or “Osusume” which is four courses for $63. We all chose the Tokutoku. I remembered from my last visit that Nine Fine Food provide gluten free soy and was chuffed that I didn’t need to bring along my own. It is these small things that make me happy. I had the fresh sashimi for my entrée and noticed that my serve was considerably smaller than when I had previously ordered it off the à la carte menu. This made sense as the à la carte version is $10 more expensive than the remainder of the entrée options. Each carefully sliced piece of fish was delicate enough to give that melt-in-the-mouth amazingness that will always elicit a moan of pleasure from me as it hits my tongue. Fresh sashimi is surely one of my favourite things.
During my previous visit I ordered the confit duck leg and this dish is quite a treat so I was excited to see that Chris ordered it. It was a hard decision for me to not order it again as I know how good it is but I was determined to try something new. The duck is marinated in five-spice and served with lightly grilled scallops, sweet potato mash, a tempura onion ring and pumpkin purée. A ruby-red reduction made from red wine and mirin wine splashed contrasting colour against the mash across her plate. Jealous!
Gluten free mains choices are limited as many of the meats are pre-marinated in sauces containing gluten. The chef seemed more than obliging to adapt things for me however so I ordered the salmon and scallops. The Atlantic salmon was cooked in two ways; one piece was roasted and one was lightly fried. It was served with some grilled scallops topped with tobiko caviar on a bed of citrusy Yuzu mascarpone. The normal gluten version also contains a panko fried mixed seafood cake which was omitted for me. Vibrant edamame, pomegranate seeds and fresh grapes decorated the plate adding interesting little bombs of flavour and colour.
The “pork and pork” dish is not for the faint hearted and I would only recommend it for genuine pork lovers. The three different presentations of pork made this the perfect dish for my meat loving, veggie hating South African business partner. A sizable cube of twice cooked, milk braised pork belly accompanied slices of tender grilled pork fillet and some tempura bacon. Yes, you heard right, I said tempura bacon. Now I don’t really get into my pork but THAT was enough to make me swoon. The day I find somewhere that can make me gluten free tempura….it’s game on. Fry me some bacon!
Our star team member of the night ordered the “chicken and lamb”. This was a dish containing multiple interesting elements including some marinated crunchy kara-age chicken, poached chicken breast, grilled lamb fillets and portions of vegetable cake. A sweet syrupy balsamic soy dressing was drizzled over the tender pieces of lamb to finish things off.
I cannot go past any matcha flavoured desserts, they really are the bomb. Even just your run of the mill, matcha ice-cream will get me excited despite not being the biggest ice-cream fan. During my first visit to Nine Fine Food I was introduced to matcha brûlée and despite the food blogger within me chanting that I already HAD a good photo of this dessert meaning I should order something different to give you dear readers more food porn to drool over…..I ordered it again.
And it was so good!
And I’m not sorry.
The others all ordered the Kuro Goma gelato which is made from black sesame. Chris also opted for the additional chocolate banana roll which cost an extra $5. Her plate looked something like a dessert garden with fresh fruit scattered about for decoration.
Nine Fine Food is exceedingly good value for both the quality of the food and service. Even better still, they are a BYO restaurant leaving you with the only drama being what wine to choose to match with your food. Unfortunately many of their beautiful dishes are not naturally gluten free and they require some degree of adaptation resulting in components being removed and not replaced. Hopefully as the chef has now made the move to offering gluten free soy to diners, he will soon move to offering more gluten free dishes that do not require changing to accommodate for people like us.Nine Fine Food 227-229 Bulwer Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9227 9999 | www.ninefinefood.com.au Price: $$ (Entrees $16-18, Mains $34, 3 course set $53) Food: 7/10 (would have scored higher if more GF options) Service: 3.5/5 (discrete and unobtrusive, the let to food take the stage Ambience: 3.5/5 (moody, dim-lit and quite romantic) Drinks: BYO Total: 14/20
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is a five-star hotel very conveniently located in the heart of the Marina Bay district right along the Grand Prix track. Our room offered stunning views over the Bay and the city skyline in addition to directly facing onto the Formula One racetrack itself. You could watch the race directly from your own room if you booked it enough in advance! I chose this area knowing it is very central to all the foodie, entertainment and shopping places I had on my wish list to check out. It is also only a couple of tube stations from the Orchard Road shopping district. Our Premium Ocean Room was clean and reasonably newly appointed with a pillow menu, twice daily housekeeping and free WIFI.
On our first night we had already been out for a beautiful lunch at Sky on 57 with my Dad and Stepmum as they were passing through Singapore on their flight home to Melbourne. Ordering room service seemed like the best way for us to kick back and relax. Earlier that morning when we were still in Phuket we had obtained all our unedited wedding video footage from our videographer and we were both itching to watch it.
The Boy ordered one of his favourite comfort foods; a traditional Italian lasagna made with fresh tomatoes, minced beef and mozzarella cheese layered between home-made pasta sheets. Retrospectively, it feels quite odd now writing about him eating meat. In the weeks following our return from Singapore, the Boy made the surprising decision to become a vegetarian. After years of being a big meat eater, I wonder what his favourite comfort food will be now?
I ordered the grilled Norwegian salmon with steamed potato and baby vegetables. Desperate for some greens I also ordered the garden salad which turned out to be quite an enormous serve. In addition to the usual greens it contained asparagus tips, avocado, olives, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese shavings.
During our stay we visited the Axis Bar a couple of times to put our feet up after a hard day eating and sightseeing. Overlooking the Marina Bay they have plenty of comfortable lounges to allow us to unwind from all the wedding excitement over a drink or two.
Whilst the bar menu did not have many gluten free options, the kitchen was more than happy to make up for us a special platter each visit with a variety of gluten free snacks including roasted duck with caperberries, smoked salmon and marinated olives.
In addition to two bars, the Mandarin Oriental has five restaurants. MELT ~ The World Café is their buffet style restaurant where our included buffet breakfast was served. They had an excellent range of gluten free options and every morning the waiter would come over to our table and ask if I wanted my gluten free waffles and pancakes. I’m sure this is the first hotel I’ve been offered both waffles and pancakes that I am able to eat. No wonder I put on so much weight! The waffles had a wondrously thin crisp outer layer and were light and fluffy on the inside.
There was a huge range of salads, sliced meats and pastries in addition to both Asian and Western style hot dishes. There was even a waffle counter making fresh waffles while you wait. On our last morning we slept in, nearly missed breakfast and ended up dashing down all dishevelled and sleepy. As we finished off our meals the manager came over to us with two glasses of champagne and a camera wanting to congratulate us on our marriage. Even without any make-up the natural glow of happiness from us both was easy to capture. Within minutes of returning to our room the photo arrived in a Silk quilted photo frame. What a thoughtful and personal touch.
In addition to the buffet restaurant there are four other restaurants which include Dolce Vita (Italian), Cherry Garden (Cantonese), Morton’s (Steakhouse) and Wasabi Bistro (Japanese). We dined at Cherry Garden one evening where I was gob-smacked that I could enjoy beautiful Cantonese dishes made especially gluten free. Read my review of our meal at Cherry Garden here.
Throughout our stay we found there to be a high level of attention to detail with excellent communication amongst their staff regarding my food allergies. It was refreshing to not have to reiterate at each venue what I could and couldn’t eat and I would have no hesitation staying here again upon our return to Singapore.
Note: We stayed in a Premier Ocean Room for $437AUD/night which included a buffet breakfast. Mandarin Oriental Singapore 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797 | +65 6338 0066 | www.mandarinoriental.com/singapore
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
After a few rounds of drinks at the pub we were lucky enough to catch a break in the rain and power walked as best as one can with a broken toe down Albany Highway to L’Enoteca. The inside of the restaurant was cosy and warm and a welcome relief after the blustery walk. The menu was uncomplicated and clearly marked with both vegetarian and gluten free options. It made a nice change as it made ordering dishes so easy. As we perused the wine list we asked the waitress to bring out some marinated olives. Each olive was a soft little bomb of flavour with hints of citrus and the slight heat of some chilli. I prefer my olives soft; I don’t enjoy the harder ones as much.
The stuffed field mushrooms were the Boy’s choice and although this dish is something I often enjoy making for us at home it was by no means less satisfying eating it out in a restaurant. There is something oddly meaty about mushrooms when they prepared this way and I almost feel like I’m eating a bit of steak. Weird I know. L’Enoteca’s mushrooms were flavoured with fresh parsley and basil and were thick, juicy and surprisingly filling.
Since my trip to Barcelona, I remain on a quest to find myself octopus in Perth which tastes as good as the dishes I ate in all those late night tapas bars. Although this octopus was very tasty it just didn’t have that plump soft texture that I’m aspiring for and it was a touch on the chewy side.
Risotto is a dish I rarely have the time or patience to make at home. Maybe one day when I eventually get myself a Thermomix my world will change but until then I find it hard to justify standing in front of my stove stirring for what feels like an eternity.
Our waitress came to our table and placed a huge bowl of creamy duck risotto in front of me and my lusting for Spanish octopus quickly faded back to the distant corners of my mind. The thickly sliced duck breast was cooked to a buttery soft texture and rich nutty tones from the porcini mushrooms added beautiful depth and substance.
Our night was like a re-run of one of our Mushroom Mania meals. Not only was our shared entrée a mushroom dish but both of our mains were a mix of hearty mushroom goodness too. There was certainly no complaints from either of us! The Boy ordered the handmade chestnut tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom ragu and generous shavings of truffled pecorino (Moliterno tartufo). Each ribbon of soft pasta coated itself beautiful in the rich chestnut puree and buried amongst this was a variety of slippery soft mushrooms and whole roasted chestnuts . The Boy commented that the truffle aroma from the cheese was very subtle and being a truffle addict he would have preferred a touch more pungency.
We had a teeny bit of room left to share one more dish. I would like to have tried some of their cheeses which I noted were all proudly Italian. There was one cheese in particular that sparked my attention; the Moliterno tartufo that the Boy had grated over his pasta. This is a type of truffle infused pecorino cheese. But recalling the Boy isn’t really into his cheese, I considerately selected a dessert for us to share instead. Such a good wife I am! Suffice to say we were pretty chuffed with our selection. The pannacotta had perfect form and cemented my deduction that L”Enoteca know their Italian cuisine. Delizioso!L’Enoteca 249 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100 | (08) 9472 5881 | www.lenoteca.com.au Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (classic Italian favourites made with obvious passion and love) Service: 4/5 (friendly & knowledgeable about their menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a bit noisy, subdued lighting, quite romantic) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of predominately Italian wines) Total: 15/20
Part Two: Our Phuket Wedding Villa at Andara Resort
After a few short and very hectic days staying at the stunning Andara Resort in one of their Pool Residences we finished off our last-minute Phuket wedding planning just in time for our wedding guests to start to arrive. This moment signalled our “moving day” where we were to move into the villa of our dreams. This would be the place where we would say our vows, become husband and wife and spend our first days as Mr and Mrs together. Eeeeek! So exciting!
Andara’s villas are situated up high on the mountain side overlooking the Andaman Sea. Each villa has its own full-time staff including a private chef. The villas are kept in an immaculate state and no matter where I took photos from various points around our enormous lodgings; I could never completely capture its incredible emotion and beauty. After an initial scare where our original choice of villa was alleged to have water damage, we managed with some persuasion to negotiate getting a larger but just as beautiful villa replacement.
Our master bedroom opened out onto our private balcony with expansive views of the Andaman sea and angled to afford glimpses of the sun setting into the sea. Our bathroom was as big as our living room at home with a massive spa once again with those incredible sea views. Our bath was filled with rose petals both on our arrival and also for our wedding night. We each had our own separate walk in robes meaning all my wedding attire could be hidden away from prying groom’s eyes until our big day.
The villa was an enormous building set over three levels allowing each of our guests their own private areas. There are two separate indoor living areas; a living room with a ten seater dining table and a separate family room. Both are equipped with large flat screen TVs and entertainment systems.
Despite the opulence and spaciousness for indoor relaxing; most of us spent the week outdoors basking around the infinity pool and eating under the sala. I couldn’t understand why you would want to dine indoors when there was such a beautiful view to gaze upon outdoors.
Our villa’s chef Su proved to be one of the biggest assets to this breath-taking villa and we would have all loved for her to return home with us to Australia! Every time we chose to eat out in Phuket we were reminded how much better Su’s food was and we should have just stayed at the villa and let her look after us.
She would approach us each morning after we finished eating our cooked breakfast in order to plan our menu for the day so she could head down to the markets and buy all the produce fresh. Nothing was too much trouble for her and she never complained about all the “blow-in” guests we repeatedly invited up to the villa to join us.
For our first night we invited all wedding guests up to the villa for a “casual” BBQ to welcome them all to Thailand. Expecting something simple, we were in no way prepared for the half a dozen or so staff that came up hours in advance to set up for the party.
Tables were set with white linen, flower centrepieces placed on the tables, bamboo flame torches embedded in the garden around the pool and a bar was set up complete with a bartender. This was to be the standard of attention and care we received throughout the duration of our stay making us really feel like we were kings and queens. This could be a lifestyle I could easily get used to if I had the money for it to be sustainable!
The only downside of Andara’s villas is their price tag. This level of luxury and opulence doesn’t come cheap. In the lead up to our stay I cannot deny I was cringing at the cost, but in all honesty our week staying at our villa was truly the best week of my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
For all my Phuket Wedding related posts click hereAndara Resort and Villas 15 Moo 6, Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
As I approach my blog’s second birthday in September this year, I have been reflecting back on what I have achieved in these past two years. Starting from humble and amateurish beginnings I have strived to improve both my writing and photography style and understand this will forever be a learning curve for me. This constant growth and development gives a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. Blogging is and always will be my hobby and finding enough time alongside my day job as a small animal vet can sometimes be a bit of a challenge!
One of the aspects of my blog that I want to improve is my food photography skills. I look at my hideously boring food styling and poor quality restaurant photos and dream wistfully that I had natural talent. Billy Law from A Table For Two is one of those people blessed with such a gift. His photos are always clean and crisp, enticing you to dive deeper and deeper into his blog. He was a finalist on Master Chef and has scored that all elusive book deal that so many bloggers dream of.
His food photography workshops are well known by foodies over east and generally sell out well in advance. So when he announced that he was planning to bring the workshop over West I took no hesitation in signing up. Held at The Terrace Hotel we were treated to a two day insight into his trade secrets paired with good food, wine and lots of laughter.
The first day was aimed at a beginner’s level teaching us how to get the most of our cameras regardless of whether it was a point-and-shoot compact or a niftier DSLR. We went through the basics of composition, white balance and he provided some helpful post processing tips. Billy went around the table and individually looked at each of our cameras to help us familiar ourselves with the manual settings. I was able to put his suggestions straight to work as food was continuously being brought to us. We certainly didn’t go home hungry!
The second day was aimed at a more intermediate level and Billy showed us how to utilise props and lighting to get the best out of our shots at home. The attendees at this day included a wide range of people from passionate foodies and bloggers to professional photographers. The atmosphere was very informal and friendly and many of us exchanged business cards and twitter handles at the end of each day.
The Terrace Hotel staff knew they were serving a roomful of bloggers so I have refrained from reviewing these meals as it would be impossible for me to give an accurate unbiased review. Throughout the day we were treated to very personalised and friendly service and I walked away impressed with the level of attention. I am keen to return for a meal incognito to discover whether this is true for all patrons.
A big thank you to Billy for making the trip over to Perth!The Terrace Hotel 237 St Georges Terrace Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | http://www.terracehotelperth.com.au/
There are a lot of things I love about being a food blogger. Despite what some of you may think there is much more to blogging than just eating, drinking, photographing and writing about food. There exists a strong sense of community amongst us, not just locally but across the nation and in some cases around the world. Friendships are easily formed and due to our heavy involvement in social media these are friendships that are relatively easy to maintain! I wish I had enough time in my day to be able to read more food blogs however in a time poor world I find myself having to narrow it down to reading those blogs that I have the strongest connection with.
In the months before I started blogging back in late 2011 I started following a handful of blogs that I found interesting. One of these blogs was Weny’s blog Weny Wonders Why and his blog remains one of those I still manage to keep up with today. We share very similar taste in restaurants and have been known to unintentionally visit the same restaurant in the space of one week and only find out as we simultaneously post our own reviews. Despite communicating regularly to each other via our blogs, we only very recently met face to face for the first time at the Accento Italian Cooking Class Media Launch in May this year.
A few weeks later, Weny kindly invited me along with a couple of other Perth food bloggers to join him for a Chinese Banquet at Shun Fung down on Barrack Street jetty. I have very fond memories of Shun Fung. Nearly 15 years ago when the Boy and I first started dating the bulk of our weekends were spent partying and clubbing. Back then none of our friends at the time were foodies and would have never considered spending their money on expensive restaurants. The Boy and I felt differently and his love for fine dining was an immediate point of connection for the two of us; a match made in gastronomic heaven! In those days Shun Fung was well known for serving top-notch Chinese cuisine and we went there for our very first fancy dining experience. Together we tried sea cucumber, jelly fish and all sorts of other interesting Chinese delicacies. Unfortunately since those heady heydays, while Perth’s food scene grows from strength to strength Shun Fung has suffered a steady decline in both its reputation and patronage.
Shun Fung’s owner Eva has decided that it’s time to bite the bullet and is investing her time and money to get Shun Fung back to its former glory. She has hired new chefs who have been busy redesigning the menu and will be serving dishes from all the provinces of China rather than just one region. It was intriguing to learn that Shun Fung is actually part of a chain of around 30 restaurants located in China. Some of these are massive establishments having up to 200 chefs working at one time. Perth’s Shun Fung is their only venue here in Australia. Our dining experience that follows is an example of what you can order as part of a $100 per person banquet meal.
I am used to the fact that Chinese food is rarely gluten free as the wide spread prevalence of soy and wheat flour makes choosing suitable dishes hard so I find I tend to avoid dining out at Chinese Restaurants. After taking my seat at the banquet table I unrolled the menu and was very impressed to see that the kitchen was going to significant effort to design a separate gluten free banquet especially for me. I wasn’t expecting such care and attention and was very grateful.
For the rest of the table who could eat gluten there were four appetisers; green chilli in special sauce, ruccola salad, spicy kimchi in Chinese Style and marinated duck wings. Whilst I was not able to try these dishes I was told the ruccola salad was light and refreshing on the palate and the marinated duck wings were very tender and slightly sweet.
My gluten free appetiser was some freshly grilled soft squid with a bean shoot salad and some slices of tomato. Our host recommended that I place a piece of tomato and squid in my mouth as the same time to maximise the flavours. Although it sounded like a curious thing to do it turned out to be good advice. Sometime the simplest combinations of flavours can be surprisingly exciting.
The three season entrée platter was quite a magnificent sight. In Chinese cuisine there are considered to be three important characteristics; aroma, taste and colour. This platter was vibrantly decorated with brightly coloured vegetables and flowers achieving a successful round of “oohs” and “ahhs” across the banquet room. Carefully placed on the platter were golden radish balls, chilli and salt mini dried fish and backed oysters with foie gras sauce.
Golden radish balls are a bit of a misnomer as I believe these tend to contain mainly seafood which is finely chopped and then deep fried. I believe these balls were actually the highlight of the platter for many. The chilli and salt mini dried fish looked like whitebait fries and listening to the audible crunch coming from either side of me they were obviously perfectly crispy! Although the Boy isn’t that big on oysters he did comment to me that they were delicious and creamy.
As everyone started to tuck into their entrees my gluten free alternatives arrived. I was delighted to receive some super fresh oysters with some fresh lime and a gorgeous little lettuce cup of sang choy bow. My sang choy bow had a great nutty texture and was packed full of seafood.
Our next course was the abalone soup. I am fascinated by how much flavour can be found in clear Chinese broths. Superior soup always looks so deceptively watery but manages to impart such complexity of flavours. This is brought about by careful selection of ingredients including chicken, Jinhua ham (Chinese dry cured ham that is similar to Spanish Iberico), pork, pork bones, dried anchovy and/or dried scallops. This superior soup was smooth and delicate with rich unami flavours.
With all this food it was hard to believe we hadn’t even started our mains yet. Thank goodness I planned ahead and wore my stretchy dress! Our first main dish was the Coral Trout which was prepared in two styles. The first preparation was gluten free. Soft flakes of steamed trout with medallions of slippery shiitake mushrooms and a scattering of dried Goji berries. The Goji berries introduced a tart flavour to the otherwise delicate and sweet tropical fish. A gorgeous dish. For the second preparation the trout was lightly battered and pan fried. Not being gluten free I didn’t try this style.
As we finished off our fish our host entered the banquet room carrying sizzling stones topped with juicy cubes of Wagyu beef. I had to presume the meat was marinated in soy because I was advised not to eat it and given my own individual serve. My portion of Wagyu was equivalent to several portions for the others and I could feel a number of pairs of eyes staring at my plate longingly. Only the Boy was game enough to try and steal a piece.
The next dishes of honey and mustard king prawns, Szechuan spicy chicken and braised king oyster mushrooms with shallots all contained gluten and so it became my turn to gaze longing at everyone else’s plates until my next alternative dish arrived.
I didn’t have to wait long and was soon presented with a large King prawn served “backed” like how they do it in Thailand. It was flavoured with “special sauce” which has is a slightly sweet, slightly salty sauce is made from garlic, ginger, Chinese rice wine, oyster sauce, sesame oil, honey and white pepper. The prawn flesh pulled effortless out of its shelled and before finding its way very quickly to my mouth!
My next special gluten free dishes included mixed mushrooms in superior sauce and some sizzling runner beans. The beans were very moreish and briny which contrasted nicely with the more delicate flavours of the soup. While the rest of the table tucked into the Dim Sum platter, to finish off my meal the hostess brought me a bowl of seafood fried rice with egg yolk sauce. It was a lovely gesture but in all honesty I didn’t really need any more food!
For desserts, there were three options to choose from; mixed sweet beans with ice cream, deep fried ice cream or the red bean pancake with ice cream. I got a pang of nostalgia when I saw red bean pancake on the menu. Many years ago when we used to frequent Shun Fung, the red bean pancake was one of my absolute favourites. Those days of carefree gluten eating are well and truly over for me! Sigh!
For my gluten free dessert I received some freshly baked sweet yam cakes. Eva informed the kitchen only just baked them that day. These yummy little dumpling-like cakes are made from rice flour and taro. I love the gluggy texture of Asian style cakes and I soon got over missing out on the red bean pancake as I chowed down a couple of these beauties.
I am so hopeful that Shun Fung’s return it’s slumber will be successful. Our banquet evening reminded me how much we adored this place and knowing they are able to cater for gluten free diners is a huge plus in my books. The banquet provided a huge amount of food for $100 a head and we all rolled out of there bursting at the seams. Thank you once again Weny, Eva and all the staff for providing us with such an enjoyable evening.Shun Fung on the River Old Perth Port, Barrack Square, Perth WA 6000 | 08 9221 1868 | http://www.shunfung.com.au/
Chompchomp dined as a guest of Shun Fung. As a result I will not give a score on this dining experience as it is too hard to be 100% subjective when the meal is complementary.
I have to apologise to you my dear readers for my recent habit of taking you back and forth in a time machine of my life. This ping ponging through space will continue until I finally manage catch up on sharing all the wonderful food experiences from these past few months. I blame my horrendous blogging back log on our wedding. Although tremendous fun, wedding planning was very time consuming stuff and something just had to give.
Today I take you back to one of my most favourite times of the year: Christmas. Every few years the Boy and I take a return trip back home to Melbourne to spend this festive time with my family. Last year I tallied our trip up with my wedding dress fitting. Strategically I ensured the fitting was done first thing on my arrival so I could let loose for the rest of our stay and make an absolute glutton of myself. It was Christmas after all!
In the lead up to our wedding we were faced with a number of difficult family dramas. It really is true what they say; weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. These sad events meant we were unable to spend Christmas Day with my Mum and were thus allocated time with her on Christmas Eve instead. The Boy and I were trying so hard to save all our pennies for Thailand so we agreed that there was no need to spoil each other with Christmas presents. We decided that our gift to each other was to be our Christmas Eve dinner with dearest Mum. To make the most of this occasion I booked us a reservation at Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Melbourne Crown Casino.
Every year we go completely over the top lavishing gifts for each other so seeing as this meal was our only opportunity to do so we took the liberty to order a lot of food! We really should have remembered that Rockpool’s meal sizes are not exactly tiny as by the end of the night we could barely walk!
I ordered the sautéed white asparagus for my starter. The dish combined my two favourite obsessions for the year; shiitake mushrooms and slow cooked eggs. How could it ever get better than this? The gentle flavours of translucent Onsen style eggs and earthy ‘shrooms are fine for a breakfast dish but add in the sharp bite of melted parmesan cheese and this seemingly simple entrée became so much more exciting. Burnt butter was drizzled over it coating every part of my asparagus in salty deliciousness. At least for my first course I was sticking to my Meatless Monday vow!
The Boy ordered the warm salad of wood fired grilled quail with smoked tomatoes and black olives. The dark meat flaked off the bone without encouragement and his plate promptly filled with its juices as he continued to cut the bird apart.
Mum decided not to order an entrée and was happy to wait for her mains as her choice sounded quite substantial. She ordered the Redgate Farm partridge with roasted eschalots, peas and house cured pigs cheek. Partridge is a pale pink coloured meat and has very tender flesh with a light but gamy flavour. I didn’t get a great deal of adjectives from her describing her dish but I can assure you that her plate was clean by the end. My mum is a light eater so I think that is saying something!
Where I go a bit nutty for my mushrooms and my slow cooked eggs, the Boy goes nuts for mangoes. Fresh mangoes, grilled mangoes, mango daiquiris, mango ice-cream you name it, he will love it. The duck confit was served very simply with a grilled slice of mango and apple balsamic. The skin was thin with a slight crunch yet the meat was smooth like butter. Total dish envy!
I confess that my dedication to the Meatless Monday movements went out the window for my main dish. Rockpool source their seafood from sustainable sources and although this wasn’t a vegetarian dish, I felt at least I wasn’t contributing to the demise of our fish stocks. My grouper was seared and served with tomatoes, peppers, capers and delicious crispy Fratelli prosciutto.
A meal at Rockpool is never complete without some of their sides. The problem with this is that they are all so good it is hard to choose. As always we order too many and struggle to finish all three. My two favourites that I order everything are the sautéed mixed mushroom and more importantly the pumpkin and sweet potato. They are not to be missed I tell you!
Despite all of us protesting loudly to our fun and friendly waitress that we had no room for dessert she still discreetly left us the dessert menus on our table for perusal. Curiosity always kills the cat and none of us could resist a quick peek to see what was on offer. Before we could stop ourselves we had ordered not one dessert to share, not even two desserts to split amongst ourselves, but proceeded to greedily order one each! Mum and the Boy ordered the profiteroles. Crispy outer shells of Choux pastry were piped with homemade vanilla ice-cream topped with hardened chocolate and hazelnuts set on top. They bore some resemblance to a classier version of the movie cinemas Choc-Tops.
My only gluten free option other than ice cream was the crème caramel. Not a bad choice to be left with but I do like to have a selection of gluten free dessert options. Growing up in a household with a French father, crème caramel was a dessert that was made to perfection at home. Flawlessly set like a slice of heaven Perry’s rendition of it was a match for my family’s chefs!
It was creeping past midnight and we all needed to head home to allow our bodies to perform some serious digesting before we would be able to have any room for the following day’s festivities. Once again, reliable Rockpool left me filled to the brim with a beaming smile on my face; a successful fine dining experience without the pretension and fanfare.Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006 | (03) 8648 1900 | www.rockpool.com Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-30, Mains $23-115) Food: 5/5 (can I say perfection? This time round it was truly faultless) Service: 4/5 (impeccable and entertaining without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4/5 (relaxed but spacious with views right through the shining kitchen) Drinks: 4.5/5 (successful wine matching by the sommelier meant I could relax and enjoy the company) Total: 17.5/20
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.
Back on the ground floor foyer, we were served by a small framed, elegant woman who kindly took great trouble to ring around a few restaurants in the complex in search of a table. She managed to secure us a booking at Guy Savoy, one of the “celebrity restaurants” at the Casino. The only time available was just an hour away yet there we stood all wind-swept, sweaty and in no way presentable for fine dining.
Jumping in a cab the Boy, Woki and I made a mad dash to return to our hotel but as we crawled inch by inch through peak hour traffic I started to feel the tension among us rising. By this point, the monsoonal downpour was in full force and I could barely see the road in front of us. Jumping out of the cab to proceed on foot was completely out of the question!
Upon our return to Fairmont Hotel we quickly raced upstairs dripping wet to our rooms. With my heart pounding in excitement I flurried about spraying my hair with a ton of hair products and my face with a lathering of makeup. After the finishing touch of a smear of bright red lipstick I prayed my transformation into something more elegant was successful.
However, our building anticipation was not to end there. It almost felt like fate was against us as we ended up taking the wrong train, got off on the wrong station and then took a full circle route on foot of the entire MBS complex before we could actually find the restaurant. Let me tell you, it is not well signposted and MBS is huge!
A little flustered and nauseatingly hungry we were seated at our table ready for the fun to begin. Our meal was kick-started by a few adorable bite size canapés.
The gluten eaters received a pint-sized foie gras club sandwich and similarly Lilliputian cube of parmesan waffle.
My gluten free canapés included a spoonful of miniature cubes of beetroot sprinkled with black truffle on a herb purée and some finely grated apple with baby celery leaves on an almond crumble.
As we allowed these flavours to entertain our palate, our waiter wheels out an old polished wood trolley with a whole leg of Joselito’s Ibérico de Bellota Jamón. Ibérico jamón is a type of ham made from black Iberian pigs that are kept free range on pasture and oak groves where they feast on a diet of acorns, grass, herbs and roots. Joselito’s Ibérico jamón is world famous for being the best ham in world and wholesale prices start at around $600 for a small leg and can get well over $3000-4000 for an aged leg. They pride themselves on raising “happy pigs” and believe this is a major factor in their meat quality.
The waiter carved in front of us about a dozen slices straight off the bone. Dark purple in colour and with multiple thread-like veins of white fat coursing through the meat; the wafer thin slivers of ham nearly dissolved on contact with my tongue. Eating Joselito jamón is quite an unforgettable foodie’s experience and I highly recommend that you try it yourself if you ever have the chance.
The unusual pretzel shaped bread was unfortunately not gluten free and as there wasn’t any gluten free bread option I had to satisfy myself by just having a brief sniff of its fresh doughy aroma. I cannot deny it is always a little disappointing when I visit fine dining institutions such as this and a gluten free bread option is overlooked. Not that I really needed bread given the enormous meal we were about to enjoy!
Our Amuse Bouche was a chilled Vichyssoise-styled soup made from leek, potatoes and cream. The addition of fennel gave a slightly sweet and refreshing after-taste. Curiously hidden under the small mug of thick soup contained two little half spheres of fennel and leek “royale”, basically a smooth lime green custard topped with minuscule little micro herbs and pea sized blobs of herb purée. With the subtle sweetness of the fennel in the soup still lingering, this little dollop served to extend and enhance the ambrosial experience with utmost precision.
Both the Boy and Woki ordered the “crab with multi-coloured beetroot variations” for their entrée. The concept of this dish was to “marry land and sea”. The blood red and lemon yellow shavings of roasted beets were curled into cone like flowers. Each little beet “flower” was filled with a foamy light beetroot blancmange followed by delicate portions of the cooked Australian Spanner crab meat. Savoury shortbread crumble and flecks of beetroot crisps sprinkled over the dish to add more complexity.
Alongside the salad was served a warm golden beetroot tartlet containing hints of cardamom and orange. The pastry collapsed in the mouth like fairy floss. It lay on top of a wafer thin square of transparent paper that looked a bit like cellophane. We were informed this was salt paper and was entirely edible. Despite the tart being the accompaniment, both the boy and our companion agreed it was the star of the two components.
This photo of my entrée is not my own and is courtesy of the restaurant. My mosaic of poulard, foie gras and artichoke was by far and by large the highlight of the evening yet for some strange reason it completely bypassed me to take a photo. Like a bizarre form of savoury layer cake, thick door stop-sized slices of young fattened poulard, wedges of soft foie gras and similar textured artichoke sat relatively unimpressively on my plate. They were accompanied by two precisely equal sized blobs of black truffle vinaigrette. The appearance of this dish does in no way make one’s mouth water; which is perhaps why my photography was overlooked. However just one mouthful of these three simple ingredients with a conservative smear of the vinaigrette and you will change your mind forever. This dish was absolutely mind-blowing; the rich buttery elegance showed true respect for the ingredients with no need for embellishment.
As we waited for our mains to arrive out came a little prequel, some sort of intermission entertainment I guess; named the Chestnut Royale. Now I am quite partial to chestnuts, yet I rarely see them feature on the menus in Australia. They always conjure up memories of walking down the streets of Paris where street vendors roast them everywhere in the winter. This innocent looking dish was quite a taste sensation. A perfectly formed dome of smooth chestnut custard sat swimming in a light bed of chestnut milk. Carefully placed on top a milk glazed chestnut glistened under the dim lighting garnished with tiny little pygmy sized celery leaves and chestnut chips.
Woki thoroughly enjoyed his “Shoulder of Australian Wagyu in two preparations”. By using an oyster blade steak or “paleron” as it is called by the French, the meat contained wondrous marbling and flavour. The first portion was braised in a red wine jus topped with baby carrots and a black pepper mignonette. The second portion of beef was purely just seared and garnished with dollops of wasabi. Both portions of beef sliced like butter at room temperature as good Wagyu should.
The accompanying side dish of potato Maxim’s and bitter greens was comparatively lacklustre and did not wow Woki at all.
I ordered the pan seared duck breast with eggplant “gianduja” sauce and “au poivre”. I was informed by our waiter that in order to achieve the creamy pate-like texture of the meat the duck breast was seared, then cooked sous vide, and then finally seared again. On my plate balanced so carefully like a stack of cards were thin slivers of eggplant served with gianduja chocolate sauce. The sauce tasted a little reminiscent of Nutella due to its high hazelnut content. Tiny little purple delight flowers scattered amongst the eggplant giving a splash of colour and bitter flavour. The duck was richly flavoured and buttery tender and left me wanting more.
My side dish was potato tagliatelle; thin ribbon like curls of deep fried potato. This was the only dish I ate that I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps some seasoning would have improved this element however even if that were the case it felt a little mismatched to the fabulous duck dish.
The Boy ordered the “Saddle, rack and shoulder of lamb; Land and Sea”. Unfortunately for him, after being left relatively unimpressed with his entrée choice his main didn’t manage to suitably wow him either. The main part of his dish contained a roasted rack of lamb placed on an almond and hazelnut praline. The saddle of lamb was stuffed with bamboo clams and pan roasted. Next to the lamb I recognised some emerald-green samphire on his plate; something we were introduced to during our beautiful lunch at Millbrook Winery last year where the chef forages it from the banks of the Swan River.
The second part to his dish was his favourite. The shoulder of the lamb was braised and wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and topped with sprinklings of purple potato crisps. I recall the waiter mentioned that this component contained melted onions so I didn’t get to taste it! This dish was apparently seasoned in the bamboo clam jus.
By this point in time in the night I was starting to receive a number of subtly concerned looks from the Boy and knew he was worried as to how much this meal was going to cost us. He is never been one to be a killjoy by any means and during our near fifteen years together we have shared some highly priced memorable meals together. But he is also a sensible man, and he knew all too well that just coming over to Singapore alone was breaking the budget so close to our wedding, so enjoying a four figure fine dining experience was definitely going to break the bank. A smart move from me at this would have been to proclaim total fullness and call it a night.
And then out came the cheese trolley. And all my sensibility went out the window. My thoughts of finances, savings and budgets temporarily felt incredibly less important. Our dinner companion Woki was no help either. Being a father to two little ones means he rarely gets to experience such incredible culinary excellence and wanted to make the most of our evening. After a long consideration we settled for three cheeses: the curious looking Mimolette, Fourme d’Ambert and most dear to my heart Saint Marcellin; a cheese produced by my late uncle Jeannot’s factory in the Alps of France.
The Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild blue cheese that is considered to be one of France’s oldest cheeses dating back to Roman times. It is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and has a luscious creamy texture and leaves a slightly sweet earthy mushroom after-taste.
The Mimolette had such a curious appearance that it was our wild card choice for the evening. The cheese looked like a cross between a rock melon and a dusty cannonball. It was a hard round ball with a pocked dimpled surface. I later learnt that the dimpled appearance is actually due to the activity of surface mites that burrow their way through the surface rind which in turn allows the cheese to breathe and mature. From the heart of this bizarre rock, our waiter scooped out some bright orange brittle cheese. It tasted quite unexpectedly sweet and caramelised, and felt like you were eating a hybrid of fudge and cheese, but in a good way.
Our portion of the Saint Marcellin cheese regrettably wasn’t warmed to room temperature and thus failed to relax into that sexy goo I have enjoyed many times before. I was very disappointed because for a number of years I have been talking up about this cheese to Woki. It is not easy to come by in Australia and this was his first time trying it.
For some reason the next two following pre-dessert dishes managed once again to escape my camera. I think I was a little distracted by my growing concern as the impending bill. Our first pre-dessert was so delectable that Woki jokingly exclaimed to the waiter that it was “no good” and that we all requested another one. His sarcasm was lost on our waitress and with a worried look she scuttled away to get us another serve.
We were too full to order a dessert but were tempted by the trolley of “petit fours”-styled mini-serves of ice cream, sorbet and biscuits and each tried a little portion for ourselves.
Just when we thought the near theatrical dining experience was over, as I sipped on my peppermint tea an Earl Grey Sorbet was delivered to our table for a final palate cleanse. Served on top of a black pepper crème anglaise the subtle flavours of the bergamot from the tea left a very refreshing end to our wondrous meal. Suffice to say, the Boy was right; we are still paying back our share of the meal to Woki!Guy Savoy The Shoppes, Atrium 2 L2-01, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8513 | www.guysavoy.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.7/5 (my choices were nearly faultless but there were some hits & misses at my table) Service: 5/5 (very knowledgeable and attentive with a noticeable lack of any pretension) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a little formal and stuffy but some fabulous views) Drinks: 4/5 (very extensive wine list but a considerable mark up on bottle prices) Total: 17.2/20
Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
As much as I would love to be spending more of my time eating and blogging like most food bloggers I have a day job. I am a veterinarian who is as passionate about my career as I am about food. In order to stay abreast of this ever evolving field I regularly attend veterinary conferences and congresses. Forever thirsty for new information and ways to better practice medicine, these conferences are often quite intense for me and I have been known to go through a whole biro pen from furiously scribbling down extra notes in the margins of our proceedings.
While I have been a vet for over ten years I have only been blogging for just over a year and my abilities to write and take photos still have a long way to go before I would consider myself “good”. Keen to improve my skills as an amateur I was over the moon to be invited to join 80 fellow bloggers to attend the third annual Eat Drink Blog Conference (EDB) this year. Better still the conference was to be held in Adelaide, the city I grew up in and where my darling mother still lives.
Vets are not unsociable folk by any means; however the extroverts are few and far between meaning at a conference I would be lucky if I managed to network with a small handful of colleagues each time. In stark contrast, the energy and excitement amongst the Eat Drink Blog delegates was infectious. Being more isolated in Perth, there were many bloggers that I had never met. Yet over the past twelve months together we have shared life’s ups and downs via our blogs and social media. Such a warm and welcoming bunch of people filled the room and I sensed a strong sense of community amongst us from the outset.
This year was to be the first year that the conference spanned over two days and I cannot sing enough praise to the dedicated team of people responsible for making Eat Drink Blog such a successful weekend.
I spent much of my adolescent years in Adelaide and the Adelaide Central Markets holds a very dear place in my heart. In the early stages of coping with a broken home, my Mum and I always found solace visiting the markets together. Not only did our scant food budget thrive on the cheaper produce, the atmosphere and buzz was always enough for us to temporarily forget our pains and absorb the vitality. Returning to the markets some twenty years later conjured up a mix of emotions as this was one of the highlights of one of the darker times of my younger years.
Our tour included visits to a number of South Australian owned businesses and many of these were family run having been in the Central Markets for generations.
After the market tour, delegates had the option of joining a winery tour in the Barossa or McLaren Vale, or to participate in a food writing workshop by acclaimed writer Dianne Jacob. As much as the imagery of a road trip with a bunch of food obsessed bloggers sounded like a dream come true, I genuinely want to improve my writing abilities and thus opted for the workshop.
Coming over from wet weather and storms in Perth I wasn’t prepared for the stifling hot day in Adelaide and prickled with sweat as I peeled off my layers walking in the sunshine. Killing time before the workshop we fortunately stumbled upon Dessert Story; a Taiwanese dessert restaurant. Desperate for something refreshing I ordered the Kiwifruit crushed ice. To my surprise out came a towering pyramid of syrupy bright green ice with chunks of kiwifruit tumbling down the sides like cartoon lava. I was unable to finish it partly due to its gargantuan size and partly due to its sickening sweetness.
For anyone interested in becoming a food writer, be it a professional journalist or an unschooled blogger, I can highly recommend attending one of Dianne Jacob’s food writing workshops or at least reading her book “Will Write for Food”. She made us all reflect critically on our writing styles and gave us lots of techniques to improve our style and find our “voice”. Throughout her three hour workshop, she made us all participate in exercises which although hard to do on the spot were effective at illustrating her points.
This is my description of eating a sweet potato chip using adjectives, simile and some emotional significance. Bear in mind this had to be written on the spot!
“The crown of my tooth nearly shatters like glass under the impact of the snap. I start to salivate as I anticipate a piquant brininess only to be left underwhelmed by the subtlety, wimpy aftermath. I breathe a deep sigh of relief as memories of my recurrent nightmares of rotting teeth fade back to the distant cobwebs of my mind. “
The other big take home point for me was the fact that gushing is boring. It’s easy to write a review about a fantastic meal and a terrible one. But most meals are neither of these and fit into somewhat of a grey area. What distinguishes the more talented writers is their ability to write about these grey areas and still manage to capture their readers.
I have my new challenge. Mark my words; there will be no more “delicious”, “yummy” or “cooked to perfection” on Chompchomp from here forth!
“The most beautiful discovery that true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” Elizabeth Foley
As a child I attended a school in Adelaide that started from pre-primary right through to Year 12. As a result there were a handful of us students who graduated from high school after spending 13 full years of schooling together. To add to that amazingness, a reasonable proportion of us who lived locally also went to the same kindergarten meaning we have known each other since we were only 4 years old!
I had planned to take a year off from study after matriculation therefore I felt no urgency to say goodbye to my lifelong friends at our valedictory dinner. To my shock my university deferral request was declined at the thirteenth hour and I had just a mere weeks’ notice to pack up my life and move to the other side of Australia where I knew nobody.
Cut to more recent times and thanks to social media I have reconnected with a lot of these friends of yesteryear and have delighted in catching up on nearly twenty lost years of contact. As most of us have dispersed ourselves around Australia and the wider world much of our contact with each other has been purely internet based. Consequently I’m sure you can imagine my total excitement when one of my childhood besties from this group informed me she was coming to Perth for the weekend on conference. She planned to stay with another close school friend of ours who has recently moved over here to Perth. Despite this other friend’s relocation, I have unfortunately only managed to catch up with her once since she settled here. I was so happy to be able to see them both; it looked like we were in for a great night out!
Of course I was nominated to select the venue so I suggested starting with a couple of rounds of drinks at Five Bar after which we would head across the road to Must Wine Bar, one of my favourite restaurants in Perth by far.
A lot can change in 18 years, and although we were extremely close for most of our childhood I wondered if we would easily reconnect or would there be some pauses of uncomfortable silence? I was almost a little nervous with anticipation that afternoon but immediately upon seeing her, my heart melt and there were no barriers or awkwardness. We embraced in a loving hug and I felt my eyes go a little hot with joy!
Over an hour zoomed by in the space of what felt like minutes as we all chattered away about old times; both good and bad. We finished our drinks and headed over to Must. I wasn’t the only one with food allergies this time round and I had chosen Must not only because they have amazing food, but because their ability to cater for people like me has never posed a problem.
All three of us girls ordered the prosciutto di Parma and beetroot salad for entrée. Soft, thin folds of sweet but salty prosciutto flopped gently on the plate with crisp radicchio. The flavours matched seamlessly with the dulcet beetroot and more briny parmesan.
The Boy’s eyes lit up when he saw the chicken liver parfait was truffled. I am so chuffed we both share this addiction. He received a reasonable sized serve for one but probably could have done with a touch more thick fluffy brioche to lovingly smear his parfait on.
For mains one of my friends and I both ordered the confit duck leg which was served with a parsnip purée, sautéed Brussel sprouts, black pig bacon and a Madeira jus. The duck was meltingly tender yet robust with the flavours further enriched by the black pig bacon. Black pig bacon comes from the Berkshire breed of pig which has a different proportion of intramuscular fat giving the meat a more flavoursome and moist texture compared to standard bacon. The Madeira jus gave a subtly sweet end on the palate.
The Boy and my other friend ordered the Must pork sausages. Two thick juicy sausages sat perched atop of a creamy sweet potato purée. Some confit fennel and herb salad completed this simple yet extremely tasty dish.
The night seemed to go by so quickly and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the time and it was creeping close to midnight! “Time flies when you’re having fun” as my Mum loves to say! We all agreed we were satisfyingly full and skipped dessert in favour of just tea and coffee. I was proud of Perth’s gastronomic capabilities to suitably impress my dear friends; I have a foodie reputation to uphold after all! I can always rely on Must to deliver from all angles: the food, the wine, the service, the ambience and most importantly an ability to accommodate allergies. An absolute must on everyone’s bucket list!Must Wine Bar 519 Beaufort Street, Highgate 6003 | (08) 9328 8255 | www.must.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrée $24-30, Mains $39-46) Food: 5/5 (After enjoying numerous meals here I cannot remember a bad one.) Service: 4.5/5 (Attentive without intrusion) Ambience: 4.5/5 (Sublime, classy and very French) Drinks: 4.5/5 (Extensive quality wine list, knowledgeable staff. Well, they are a wine bar.) Total: 18.5/20