For those of you living in Perth, think back to what it used to be like on a weeknight in our City five years ago. Once the day ended and the clock hit five, all the bustling daytime cafes and bars would shut and everyone would head straight home. Before long the streets of our capital would be stark empty and it was like you were standing in a ghost town. A rapidly growing city with a population of over one million people and yet we turned our backs on our own city centre!? Thankfully things didn’t stay that way forever and after some government incentives like the new small bars laws and the construction of flashy inner city apartment blocks; little sparks of life started popping up everywhere throughout the city. This energy has now burst into full flame and the memory of Perth’s once deserted streets is just an embarrassment of the past.
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.
In March this year, I married the love of my life in the most magical fairy-tale wedding of my dreams. Because we chose to get married in Thailand, our wedding was not legally recognised back in Australia unless we made a pre-wedding pilgrimage to Bangkok to arrange the necessary papers. Prior to getting hitched, the Boy and I had already spent more than ten years together and we had always celebrated our anniversary in April often with much greater enthusiasm than for either of our birthdays. It seemed logical to us, that upon our return from Thailand we would arrange a very private official ceremony back in Perth specifically on our anniversary date. This enabled us to invite special friends that weren’t for able to join us in Thailand. It also means we now get to celebrate TWO anniversaries!
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
I am known for my obsession with planning. Before going on a holiday I will spend weeks researching the best accommodation, the absolute “must eat” restaurants and other things to see and do which usually are predominately food orientated. This strong need for mapping out the future doesn’t necessarily come from a desire to control but more a fear of missing out. Yes, I suffer from FOMO. Although I am what some may consider an organisation freak, I can still have moments of spontaneity and when those care free moments involve food I am happy to throw all planning out the window. The Boy can be hard to convince to dine out during the week but when I mentioned the key words “Mexican” and “beer” he became very agreeable. Unbelievably we still hadn’t visited el PÚBLICO despite being regulars at their other popular joints Greenhouse and Cantina 663.
The second day of Eat Drink Blog 4, the Australian Food Blogger’s Conference for this year consisted of three different activities; Mastering French Pastries with Emmanuel Mollois, Unearth the Mystery of Mushrooms and finally the Cocktail and Cuisine Matching Masterclass at The Classroom, North Perth. I was excited to get my first choice of the Cocktail Class along with number of my close blogging friends.
Everyone knows about the concept of wine and food pairing. A seamless match of these two elements can take your culinary journey to great heights and many fine dining degustation menus are designed to offer this. More recently beer lovers have jumped on the pairing band wagon and some establishments now offer dishes with matched beers too.
But have you ever consider matching cocktails with food? Cocktails can bring an additional element of texture that makes wine feel comparatively one-dimensional. They allow a more tactile experience to expand on the palate and create a totally different type of adventure.
After decades of suffering from the consequences of eating gluten, it has been incredible to discover what life is really about. No itching and scratching, no depression or wild mood swings, endless energy, the disappearance of embarrassing, unsightly eczema and best of all I feel on top of the world. Since learning more about my body and what it can and cannot digest, I have delved deeper and deeper into what IS ideal nutrition. Part of that journey has involved eating much more raw, unprocessed and plant based food. Whilst I’m not a strict vegetarian by any means, meat is only something I eat once or twice a week and the majority of that is seafood. Recently we took a weekend break down to Margaret River and fell off the wagon by eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. After three days of pure gluttony it was time to head home by which point our bodies were crying out for something healthy. I had heard of a vegetarian café called Samudra located in the heart of Dunsborough and instructed the Boy to take us there urgently!
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
Last year was the first time that I was selected to attend the Eat Drink Blog Australian Food Blogger’s conference and I spent three days in Adelaide eating more food than I ever thought was imaginable. And for those of you who know me you will appreciate that is a LOT of food! My blog was barely a year old at the time and I felt humbled to be in the presence of so many talented writers and photographers. Friendships that had previously only existed in cyberspace were materialised and new friendships were created. It opened my eyes to the strong sense of community and togetherness that food bloggers share and inspired me to improve my blog with the aspiration it would become something much more individualistic and personalised.
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
The Boy and I were desperate for some time-out. We planned to visit Adelaide for the weekend of my high school reunion and to make the most of our trip, we organised a full schedule including winery visits and lots of eating. I booked our flights months back but with all the havoc and uncertainty recently; the trip couldn’t have come at a better time. We were both really looking forward to switching off and relaxing. That is, until one of our darling fur-children fell ill. Now bear in mind that we are without human children and our two Burmese cats are the next best thing. Well, in my opinion, they ARE the best thing!
Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
It was bucketing down with rain and the wind cut through me like ice. This is not exactly the best weather to be walking through the city in search of a bite to eat. The Boy and I had just been dropped off at the Wellington Bus Station by Loris from Taste Bud Tours after an afternoon Speed Grazing in the Swan Valley. I had adamantly put my foot down refusing to return home and cook dinner. It was too enjoyable a day to return to the humdrum just yet. But we were a little peckish so I suggested we pop across the road to Jamie’s Italian for some pucker tucker before catching a cab. We were loaded up with bags of loot that we had bought along the way and desperate for a quick solution we both agreed this sounded like an easy option.
Last year I entered a Facebook competition for a food magazine that will remain unnamed and in a nail-biting, head-to head battle with my blogging friend Carly from Perth Munchkin we both tied in first place. We each won a voucher for two for “Speed Grazing” in the Swan Valley with Taste Bud Tours. As often is the case, time got the better of me and before I knew it a whole year had flown by and our voucher was nigh on its expiration date. I contacted Loris the sole operator from Taste Bud Tours to book our day out before it was too late. But what developed was very odd indeed, it turns out that my voucher was in fact a counterfeit that was never officially issued! It turns out there were a number of dubious vouchers that were handed around the magazine’s office for competition prizes and staff rewards. What a scandal!
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.
This weather is seriously wild. A torrential river cascading down what was once a road isn’t exactly something I expected to see here in sunny Perth. I’ve seen it a bunch of times in Melbourne and most definitely around South-East Asia but in Perth? It’s madness I tell you. I had arranged to meet fellow blogger Whitney from dineWHITme.com for a coffee at Vans Café in Cottesloe but due to her being something of a study-work-blog-aholic she was running insanely late. I suppose I could have rescheduled but instead I decided to kill half an hour until she arrived.
It is an unusual thing for me to do; sit alone in a café sipping coffee, eating a macaron and reading the paper. I am the type of person that rarely stops still for more than a second and thus it didn’t take me long to start chatting to the person sitting next to me about food, cats and vegetarians. By the time Whit rocked up my neighbour had written herself a long list of new restaurant tips that I had suggested down onto her newspaper and she glowed like someone possessing juicy insider information.
We all have our own addictions and vices. Things we simply cannot live without, things we cannot control ourselves around and things that make our life complete. Chocolate is one of these things for me. Whenever it is in the house it haunts my every waking thought until I know it has all been eaten. I can eat it in the early hours of the morning for breakfast, I can eat it before and after a run, in fact I’m sure I could find anytime of the day to eat it. I struggle to stop at just one piece and on many occasions have made myself sick by bingeing on it. Despite being a mad chocoholic, over the years I have grown to fine-tune my palate to chocolate in a similar fashion as to wine.
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.
Yelp is a company that operates a local search website focused on user reviews much like Urbanspoon, however it encompasses all types of businesses not just restaurants and cafes. Whilst Yelp originated in the US nearly ten years ago, it has more recently landed upon our shores in Australia and has grown steadily in its popularity since. Each capital city has its own dedicated team of promoters who host a number of fun events for their “Yelp Elite” reviewers with the aim to help raise the profile of local businesses. I don’t often blog about these events however my most recent experience at Five Bar has made me want to share my renewed opinion of this venue with you.