It is no secret that this little blog has been on “sabbatical” and whilst I have continued to explore eating our city’s gluten free options, I haven’t had the gumption to write about it. Some may say this is a little selfish and I cannot deny I have been racked with guilt from neglecting this much loved creation. For those of you who know me, you will understand why. I have been somewhat preoccupied with the realisation of a long-term dream that is totally unrelated to food. I have pursued keenly for the past eight years of my life the ambition of opening the first cat-only hospital in Perth and finally this year after much hard work my dream has come true. Opening a hospital from scratch is no mean feat and consequently blogging had to take a back seat for fear of it becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Trust me, no one wants to read what I write when I’m bored, it’s total snoozeville.
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the day before our big opening and the Boy knew he had to do something to calm my rattling nerves. After heading into the hospital with me in the morning to put some final touches including hanging up the gorgeous cat art that I had bought over the years in my travels, we headed out to Jarrahdale to Millbrook Winery.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this winery, and within seconds of arriving I immediately felt my pulsing veins in my head relax, my breath deepen and my stress wash away. I was thankful that my obsession with organising had taken a back seat and that I had let the Boy choose our venue. We were warmly greeted and shown to a perfect table overlooking the water, with lots of beautiful natural light cascading onto us. After a run of stinking hot days in Perth we were blessed with a day of cool breezes and gentle sun.
Millbrook’s Valentine’s Day menu consisted of a three course menu with a glass of 2010 Blanc de Blanc sparkling for $99 per person. Whilst the Boy and I thought at first that there wouldn’t be enough food for our inflated appetites, I can guarantee the meal sizes are substantial. There were plenty of gluten free options and the kitchen and wait staff were very aware of avoiding cross contamination.
Staying true with it being a day to celebrate being a couple, we decided to order everything gluten free so we could share each other’s dishes. We even shared the matching wines as they were different for each dish. We have our cute moments and this was one of them. Our first dish of blood plums and duck hearts was so pretty it was a shame to deconstruct it to eat.
Utilising colourful seasonal vegetables and leaves from the vineyard’s own gardens, this dish was an abundance of sweet crunch and juicy heartiness, if you pardon the pun. I haven’t tried duck hearts before, and probably wouldn’t have ordered this dish if the Boy hadn’t wanted to. The hearts were a lot more gentle in flavour than I expected, and their texture was so soft and delicate.
Our second entrée also showcased some produce from the chef’s pride and joy country garden. Some flavourful preserved vegetables accompanied barbecued Fremantle octopus with house-made safflower mayonnaise. I am a bit particular about my octopus, if it is as tough as old boots I just can’t be bothered eating it. I figure there is no point eating food that uses more calories to eat it than it provides you. Suffice to say there was no food wastage with this dish and in fact when no one was looking the Boy would intermittently sweep his finger over the plate to get every last morsel of flavour before licking his finger clean. My mother would be horrified. I simply smiled.
For our two mains we shared the viognier braised rabbit risotto and the beef brisket. The risotto was creamy, with big chunks of tender local rabbit and topped with crispy pancetta and fine shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
Fears of being underfed quickly left us as we gazed across the full table packed with colourful greens, potatoes and our mains. The beef brisket was served with a bean salad, white anchovies and healthy dollop of mustard. I so rarely eat beef these days but again I was glad I followed the Boy’s wishes and ordered this dish. The meat was so lovingly prepared it fell apart with the most gentlest nudge of the fork.
As the Boy and I had our commonplace discussion of whether we would order cheese versus dessert for our final courses, we were given some fresh fruit as a simple and mouth watering palate cleanser. As I cannot tolerate watermelon due to the high fructose content, they were happy to offer me some beautiful grapes plucked from the vines.
We ended up ordering both cheese and dessert with the continuous plan of sharing each others dishes. The chef created a special gluten free dessert for us using beautiful, seasonal fresh and dried stone fruits with chocolate chunks and sorbet.
Our cheese course was just as decadent. The highlight of the plate was a round of vine-wrapped sheep cheese from Cambray Cheese. These local cheese makers are based in the south west in Nannup and make a selected range of artisans sheep cheese. I love the distinctive tang of cheese made with sheep milk, and it is lower in lactose meaning I have less of an aftermath!
A little heady and carefree from all the wine, I joined in with the Boy in a rare moment of mannerless enjoyment of food and simultaneously swept my own finger across the plate before licking my finger with a smirk on my face. If you can’t beat them, join them. After spending months and months of none stop talk about every tiny detail of the cat hospital, we both realised we had actually gone through the whole lunch without even mentioning it once! He had truly fulfilled my need to switch off and relax for just a short while. Or perhaps it was a need for us both! 😉
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery at her (and the Boy’s) own expense. Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends.
Many of you may recall my ongoing obsession with mushrooms. I eat them nearly every day and they are definitely up there as one of my most favourite foods. Even better still they are so good for you! So logically I was so excited to be selected as one of eleven bloggers from around Australia to take part in Mushroom Mania! For the whole month of July, over 2000 restaurants, cafes, bistros and clubs around the country will be involved in serving up wonderful mushroom dishes for us all to enjoy. You can download the App on your iPhone for a locality guide of participating businesses.
Millbrook Winery has been one of those stunning locations that I have longed to visit for quite some time. It is located on Chestnut Farm in the picturesque Jarrahdale area about fifty minutes south of Perth. The property spans over 300 acres and is nestled in amongst gently sloping valleys bordering along the National Park whilst boasting breathtaking views across the countryside. The Winery is owned the Fogarty Wine Group who also own Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River, Smithbrook in Pemberton and Lake’s Folly in the Hunter Valley. Millbrook utilise grapes from their own small vineyards in addition to grapes from their vineyards in the cooler climates south of the State.
The winery has a tasting room and cellar door where you can sample their wines at no cost. The Boy and I ensured to arrive a little early so we could squeeze in some tasting. Their range included some interesting wines and while I won’t confess to being an expert in describing them I did walk away with a few purchases! Better still they offer a membership discount of 20% if you join up before you buy.
The restaurant is located upstairs giving nearly 180 degrees views across the brilliant landscape and I can only imagine how much more gorgeous it would be sitting out on their decking area in the warmer summer months. Being a crisp winter’s day we didn’t get to experience this and stayed inside where it was cosy and warm.
Head chef Guy Jeffreys focuses his menu on using all the freshly grown produce from the large property which includes 150 year old orchards growing citrus, stone fruit, figs, quince and apples, and an acre sized garden filled with over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables. Herbs, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, olives and honey are also sourced from the estate. While waiting for our meals we were brought out some complementary house made sour dough with marmalade. Although the menu has a wide range of gluten free dishes available, the bread wasn’t so I dipped my fingers in the marmalade a couple of times to taste its home-grown deliciousness straight up while the Boy devoured the soft bread.
We ordered a selection of entrées to share and couldn’t fault any one of them. The braised lamb’s tongue with quail eggs was richly flavoured and contained curious little stems of salty plant called wild samphire. We were told the chef foraged for this unusual but powerfully flavoured plant along the banks of the Swan in Bassendean. It is also termed “sea asparagus”.
Not that I’m a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I do appreciate that octopus can be one of those things that without appropriate care in the kitchen can turn into a rubbery chewy disaster. Not this time round; our octopus was so juicy and soft that even the thin tentacles were tender. It was served with some of Rosa’s popular chorizo from Spanish Flavours in Wembley. We fell in love with this well-known locally made delight when at Amphoras Bar recently and you can be sure to see it feature on menus of a variety of restaurants all over Perth including Cantina 663. The octopus was also served with some pickled potato and smoked paprika.
I order the salad as our third entrée because we didn’t really need a third dish so I justified ordering it by choosing something light. Freshly picked vegetables from the farm’s garden included roasted and raw heirloom carrot and radish. Some tangy goat’s cheese was slivered on top and the salad was dressed with a light, sweet pomegranate dressing and some fresh mint leaves.
For my main I could not go past the mushroom risotto. It contained a wonderful combination of both farmed and foraged mushrooms including porcini and button mushrooms, Slippery Jacks from the neighbouring forest and meaty Field mushrooms from the adjacent orchard. To add to the amazing mushroom intensity, the Arborio rice was pre-soaked in a stock containing some Manjimup truffles and the risotto was served with generous drizzles of white truffle oil. Very decadent and definitely not low in calories but packed full of mushroom goodness! I kept convincing myself of all the wondrous health properties of mushrooms I was gaining and chose to overlook the addition of less nutrient rich oils and cheese!
I have recently eaten rabbit a few times both at the epic Largesse dinner and at Villa D’Este and each time the Boy has eyed off my dishes while suffering from a bit of dish envy. He decided to take things in his own hands and order himself the Baldivis rabbit pasta. Soft folds of hand cut pasta were perfectly coated with a thick tomato sauce and scattered with a generous serving of cotechino (a type of Italian sausage) and flavourful pieces of soft rabbit. To accompany we also order the mashed potato with truffle oil and a garden salad. Yes, more truffle oil…..well it IS truffle season after all!
The Boy and I were both so fascinated that nearly all the produce use in the kitchen was foraged or farmed on the property. The Boy prompted me to ask our attentive waitress if there would be any chance we could have a wander around the property to find our own wild mushrooms. I could barely contain my excitement when this was met with a “yes” and we were taken to a part of the property where a number of fist sized meaty field mushroom were popping up out of the lush grass. We were permitted to harvest ourselves a few which they packaged up for us to take home and eat. I began imagining how delicious they would be roasted in the oven with balsamic……see my recipe here.
After our successful mushroom hunt, we returned to the warmth of the restaurant to squeeze in a final dessert course. I was thankful that I had run to the gym for a workout that morning otherwise all my bride dieting would have gone completely out the window! The pannacotta was perfectly formed and served with little cubes of flourless orange cake, Campari sorbet and some surprisingly sweet almost caramelised orange peel.
The Boy’s ice cream was house churned with three flavours; vanilla bean, raspberry and Cajeta. The Cajeta flavour was his favourite and is traditionally made from simmering goat’s milk and sugar until it thickens like condensed milk. It tastes a bit like caramel but isn’t too overpoweringly sweet.
We were lucky enough to kindly get a tour of the property after our meal by the manager Jeremy. He was a wealth of knowledge and proudly showed us through their enormous garden filled with radishes, fennel, broccoli and other winter vegetables. He informed us that they try to be as environmentally sustainable as possible including practices such as recycling water from a natural spring that runs through the property.
We even got to duck into the chicken coop for a little pat, they were so tame and friendly and didn’t seem to mind my incessant photo taking. In fact one of them looked like she enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame!
After all the recent stress we have both had over the past few weeks, our beautiful little outing together proved to be just what we needed. We drove back to the city in comfortable silence content with full bellies and lungs full of fresh country air.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also contains some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends. Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-22, Mains $36-45) Food: 4.5/5 (nothing beats fresh produce, excellent range GF options) Service: 5/5 (faultless, friendly, knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (restaurant overlooks, lake, forest and vine yards) Drinks: 4/5 (wine license only) Total: 17.5/20