This year is my second year as the official blogger for the Gluten Free and Healthy Living Expo. The expo was held this weekend over two days at the Perth Convention Centre and received a fantastic turn out on both days. The stallholders have caught on to the concept that people love free stuff and at nearly every exhibit there was something to try. I strongly recommend arriving at the expo with an empty stomach! For those who make the mistake of having breakfast beforehand, there are some great discounts so you can fill up your show bag and enjoy them later on.
It makes such a pleasurable experience to attend a food expo and to not have to worry about cross contamination with gluten! 2015 brought a number of newcomers to the expo to join all the gluten free fun and I was pleased to see there were also a number of new FODMAP friendly products available.
It is my dream to be a cat vet, not just any ordinary vet, but one that just deals with cats. So when a locum job came up at the Hobart Cat Clinic I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get a fortnight of feline exclusivity, but I would get to visit one of the most beautiful parts of our country; Tasmania. For the first week I was solo as the Boy was only flying over for the second week. As is often the case when I’m on my own, I find myself gravitating toward food as my comfort. To my delight I found out that Hobart loves night markets too.
This year is my second year to be chosen as the official blogger for the Coles Gluten Free Food & Healthy Living Expo for Perth. For many individuals, the diagnosis of Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerance can be very overwhelming. Not only do you have to learn in detail what you can and cannot eat, but additionally you have to scrutinise every meal that you don’t prepare yourself for fear of it being cross contaminated with gluten. It only takes a tiny crumb of gluten to set off a Coeliac’s symptoms with simple things like shared toasters and cutting boards being common culprits.
Although I found sticking to an exclusively gluten free diet challenging at first, once I started to feel my health and energy levels return I realised that this diagnosis was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. My anaemia resolved, my skin rashes healed and my mind never felt more clear.
Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels!
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
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!
For our short Christmas trip home to Melbourne we managed to fit in two separate Christmas family celebrations, a friend’s wedding, five days of pre and post wedding celebrations and a spot of shopping. I also successfully squeezed in a quick brunch date with Mum before she flew back to Adelaide and we returned to Perth. We met up out the front of a café called Top Paddock in Richmond on Boxing Day. There was already a reasonable queue heading out the door and round the street so I put our name down and we stood and waited outside in the sunshine. Despite a long queue, the restaurant achieved a quick table turnover and before long we were seated.
Still in a post-Christmas day food daze I could barely focus on the menu in front of me. There were a lot of gluten free options and much of the produce used was obtained direct from the producers locally in Victoria.
Growing up in a small family unit means that when it breaks apart, the blow is a harder one to deal with. Having less people for the impact to disperse energy leaves each individual with a harder knock. This Christmas we travelled back to Melbourne to spend time with my family however the logistics of who sees who and when became even more complicated than ever before. My sister and I non-amicably parted ways in the lead up to my wedding, not my choice, and although time has passed the wounds still remain fresh for us both. To further complicate the issue, my parents are divorced which means we would normally spend Christmas with them each individually, dining with Dad on Christmas Eve and with Mum on Christmas Day.
Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held each year in the Margaret River wine region. It has become a yearly favourite for locals and a huge drawcard for people interstate and internationally. Last year the festival clashed with some dates we had booked for a close friend’s birthday celebration in Lombok, so I thought we were only going to be able to make it down for the Friday. My usual plan of attack when attending a food festival is a crazed I-must-eat-all-the-things caper. I hate the thought that I might miss out on something delicious and end up booking back to back events like a lunatic. This approach often comes at a significant cost and thus our budget for these weekends is usually quite substantial.
It is no secret that I love my local The Precinct in Vic Park. We are regulars almost every week and they seem to successfully predict what we want to drink and almost read our minds on what we want to eat too. I love their passion and enthusiasm; every wine and every dish has its own story. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that this awesome team had plans to open a second venue. Managing to secure the old Jus Burgers site in Northbridge I waited patiently for the restaurant to open, hoping them all the success that they deserve. Their new bar is called No Mafia.
Focusing on southern Italian cuisine with handpicked Italian and local wines, the food bypasses serving stodgy pastas and bread in favour of fresh and nearly entirely gluten free share plates. Executive Chef Sam McKinven has created a menu that left me wanting to return in a hurry.
Like many Australians, I have a mixed racial background. My father was born in France and is proudly patriotic, consequently I grew up listening to endless stories about the food, culture and history of my ancestors. One thing he taught me from an early age was that each region of France has their own signature dishes or types of cuisine that they proclaim to be famous for.
Brittany, or Bretagne is a historic province in the north-west of France that is rich in culture. In contrast to a lot of France where the locals will drink wine daily, the traditional drink of Bretons is cider with Brittany being the second largest cider producing region in France. They are also recognised for their crêpes and galettes which traditionally replaced bread as basic food. These are made with buckwheat flour and thus are gluten free.
There are some childhood food favourites of mine that die hard. My Mum is a talented baker and when we were kids she could effortlessly create a whole repertoire of delectable treats that never lasted long out of the oven. For school bake sales, her chocolate slice would always be the first to sell out and her melting moments were a textural delight. At Christmas time there were a number of cherished creations that would be guaranteed to fill our fridge and her pecan pie was one of those.
When I was approached by Belmont Forum to develop some recipes for Christmas I knew just had to have at least one symbolisation of my childhood and decided to adapt Mum’s recipe to be more gluten free friendly. There is nothing sugar free, vegan or paleo about these pecan pies but then I feel we all have to live a little at Christmas time. Even if it means hitting the gym a little harder in the New Year!
Revolving restaurants hit widespread popularity back in the seventies and I even remember as a child growing up in the eighties the whole concept still sounded super modern and space aged. These days many of them around the world have closed after bearing badges of being labelled tourist traps with high prices and poor quality food.
C Restaurant is Perth’s only revolving restaurant and is situated up on level 33 of the St Martins Tower in the heart of the CBD. Our first visit to this restaurant was many moons ago back when it was called Hilite 33 for one of my very first dates with the Boy.
It has often come up in conversation how do I manage to find so many places to eat out that accommodate for a gluten free diet. Well, there is no secret nor is it just good luck. It’s all about the research. This research can be somewhat time consuming and whilst I wish I could waste away my hours reading fellow bloggers posts and gazing upon their beautiful photography, I need a reliable resource that is a more time efficient. Since the arrival of Yelp onto the Perth scene I have found this website to be a much quicker and more streamlined way for me to do this. Yelp saves me time and avoids me suffering the disappointment of finding out there is nothing I can eat.
In a time long gone by, before I was forced to give up gluten, I was a girl who loved quiche. There used to be a deli that I drove past on my way to work and once or twice a week I would stop in there and buy a slice of their home made quiche to take to work for lunch. It was a thick based quiche filled with a variety of different ingredients which changed every day, plenty of egg and flaky pastry crust. Not exactly the pinnacle of healthy eating but something I would really look forward to each time I bought it.
As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
Chocolate is an addiction of mine that I’m certain I can blame on my genetics. Both Mum and Dad love their chocolate and I have been coerced into a number of chocolate binges with Mum over the years. I figure that there is no point fighting nature and assure myself that chocolate IS a nourishing super food after all. In fact, I am actually doing my body a favour giving it a daily dose. The best type of chocolate, in my humble opinion, is raw chocolate. sumptuous and silky, it has a melt in your mouth texture that will certainly have you going back for more.
Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
Being a veterinarian makes me the only scientist in my direct family; my mother is a retired Jazz singer, my father is a fashion designer and even my sister will oil paint in her spare time. Whilst I do enjoy the freedom and creativity of the arts, my strongest loyalties will always lie with my furry patients and their owners.
This isn’t to say I don’t love and cherish my blog too and with Chompchomp turning three this month it has been so exciting to watch my readership steadily grow each year. I find it so touching to know that through my writing I can help others with food intolerances find the courage to dine out while still providing some entertainment to those who are not restricted in their diet. These days I find my inbox filling up with invitations and product trials at an alarmingly fast rate. Because of my long shifts and late hours, there are many events that I have to knock back and I need to ensure to only choose the ones that I think are relevant to me and my readers.