Excitement is mounting as the truffle season is about to kick off for the winter. This year West Australia is in for a bumper crop as our conditions have been close to perfect for maximum yield and quality. For those of you who have yet to fall in love with this mysterious black “fruit of a fungus” you are truly missing out. For gourmands around the globe it is highly sought after and has earned the name “black gold” due to it high price. This high value is enhanced by the fact it grows very seasonally and has a short shelf life due to losing its aroma and flavour very quickly.
Every year there is an annual food and wine festival called Truffle Kerfuffle that is held in Manjimup, in the heart of the Southern Forests truffle growing region in WA. The three day festival allows national and international tourists to live it up for a weekend of luxurious truffle excesses. This year’s festival will run over the last weekend of June from the 26th to the 28th of June and tickets to the events are selling out quick.
Many of our state’s top chefs will be attending the event helping promote what an incredible region the Southern Forests has become, not just for their truffles, but for other sought after produce including chestnuts, buckwheat, finger limes, marron, cherries, cheeses and fine wines.
In the lead up to Truffle Kerfuffle I recently attended a preview event truffle masterclass with Chef Kiren Mainwaring from Co-Op Dining. Kiren and I share similar passions when it comes to food and wherever possible he sources his ingredients locally and seasonally. He has always taken such individualised care for my dietary needs, even at big events where it must be such a hassle to make one dish to order.
Being a small group we were taken behind the scenes into the kitchen of Co-Op Dining to get a true chef’s table experience. Not a bad way to spend my rainy Wednesday afternoon indeed!
Kiren talked us through a couple of methods that can be used to preserve truffles as their potency starts to diminish significantly after just four days. Having said that, working in the kitchen of a fine dining establishment means that he is spoilt with the luxury of not needing to preserve his truffles and uses them fresh for the duration of the season.
For those that have dined at Co-op, I imagine you would have already gone goo-goo gaa-gaa over Kiren’s slow cooked egg yolk. He cooks the yolk at 55°C for 45 minutes to yield a yolk that is technically cooked but with the consistency as if it is raw. It makes for a perfect blogger’s yolk porn shot which even in the tight constraints of someone else’s’ kitchen, I simply couldn’t resist.
The yolk snuggled on a bed of broccoli puree surrounded by crispy puffed basmati and buckwheat. This gave the ultimate play on textures with the egg’s creamy silkiness contrasting with the crunchy grains. Generous shavings of fresh black truffle gave this dish an extra depth that rocketed it into absolute heaven.
Our second dish showcased more ingredients from the Southern Forests region that are also seasonal to this time of year. Pemberton grown Jerusalem artichokes formed the base of the dish featuring both as a puree, and also cubed and fried in smoked pork fat for that added oomph of umami flavour. Roast chestnuts signal the beginning of winter for me and added a wondrous nutty element to this dish.
It was finished off with shaved parmesan, crisp onion skins and grated fresh truffle. For this dish Kiren grated the truffle finely as he wanted the truffle flavour to evenly disperse throughout the dish.
It is only three weeks to go until Truffle Kerfuffle and this year I am so excited to be taking my Dad and stepmum along with us. Living in Melbourne, they have never explored outside of Perth and I am nervously proud of what we are soon to show them. They are both well-travelled foodies who have spent much of their careers as fashion designers hitting up the hottest places in the trendiest cities around the world. Hopefully I can impress them!
Truffle Kerfuffle runs from the 26th to the 28th of June 2015. Tickets for the festival and associated events can be purchased from their website at www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au
Check out my comprehensive post from last year’s TK at www.chompchomp.com.au/2014/07/southern-forests-truffle-kerfuffle-truffle-festival-2014
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Truffle Kerfuffle and Offshoot Creative
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.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
My friends and family will tell you that I have always been an enthusiastic and excitable person. My facial features and hands rarely remain expressionless and I often suffer from a lack of volume control. There are some things in my life that can further amplify these personality traits and I have a tendency to obsess over them. To name a few. Cats. Raw chocolate. Popcorn. Running. Mushrooms. Slow cooked eggs. And black truffles. My black truffle addiction gains force each year as I seek out bigger and better truffle experiences.
For those not in the know I am not referring to a type of chocolate. Black truffles are weird looking balls of fungus that grow underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. They are a highly sought after delicacy and sell for thousands of dollars per kilo. Truffles only grow for a very limited season over wintertime and do not hold a very long shelve life.
The Southern Forests region in Western Australia has proven to be the prime location to grow this “black gold” with 80% of the Southern hemisphere’s black truffle coming from this small but highly productive region. To celebrate the truffle season each year, there is a three day truffle festival held called Truffle Kerfuffle which is dedicated to showcasing the abundance of produce from the Southern Forests region with the black truffle being on centre stage.
This year I journeyed down to Manjimup for the full weekend to get the entire truffle experience. Our first evening celebrations kicked off with the sell-out Hunt and Harvest dinner. This was a luxurious affair of six courses and matched wines with every dish enhanced extravagantly with lavish servings of fresh, aromatic truffle. At each table setting we were even given a 20 gram fresh truffle to take home.
Whilst the truffle remained the shining star of the show, each course also utilised some of the best produce this region has to offer including marron, rainbow trout and crunchy sweet apples.
It was hard to pick a highlight for the evening but for me it was Philipe Mouchel’s Manjimup Hampshire Grass fed beef. The beef was prepared two ways; a tender soft roasted strip loin with rich, braised short ribs. It was served on a bed of Southern Forest celeriac purée with a red wine sauce and of course shavings of black truffle.
The cheese course was spectacular in appearance with each platter topped with giant sized shards of gluten free whey lavosh. Hidden under the lavosh sat rolls of Bannister Downs curd which had been delicately wrapped in paper thin slices of truffle. It was a night of excess and was well worth the expense.
The next day I woke up nursing a sizey hangover but the anticipation of more truffle feasting to come it made things seem a lot easier to get going. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on anything so we headed back to Fonty’s Pool early in the day for the festival part of the weekend celebrations. We started with a naughty breakfast of truffled popcorn from the Taste of Balingup stall.
Freshly popped corn tossed in truffle butter and topped with grated truffle? Oh my! It was out of this world. I have to confess to you that with the Boy’s help I may have eaten at least half a dozen serves over the course of the weekend. And I could have easily eaten more.
The Farmer’s market was filled with a number of stalls selling produce from the Southern Forest region with a strong focus on truffle. There were a great variety of gourmet hot food stalls too which led me to the compulsion to try as much dishes as I humanly could. Thankfully most of the stalls had a gluten free option so I didn’t miss out on much!
Whilst the truffle popcorn was obviously my favourite, some other addictive bites included the marron and truffle stuffed potatoes, Kent Street Deli’s fall apart beef cheeks with truffle mash and Pata Negra’s lusciously smooth pate. I was impressed that David Coomer’s wife was kind enough to bring gluten free crackers to the festival to accompany the pate for those Coeliacs in need!
Running at half hour intervals throughout the two days were truffle hunts held on one of the surrounding truffle farms. The hunt is conducted a short bus ride away from the festival and it is the best way to learn more about this interesting industry.
As black truffles grow underground they are not that easy to find. In Manjimup, truffle farmers spend time training their dogs to be able to sniff out the treasure without damaging it. We got to meet Latte the truffle dog, a very placid and patient boy who liked to live his life in the slow lane.
Latte would carefully walk under the oak trees to smell where the truffles lay and when he found one he would gently paw at the ground once or twice then look expectantly at his owner for a treat. After half an hour or so, he had helped his owner find a small bag full of walnut sized truffles. An impressive haul when you consider they sell on the retail market for over $2000.
Whilst the main group were busy watch Latte at work, I noticed the Boy was lingering back from the crowd looking somewhat suspicious. As I glanced back to see what he was up to I saw him flick a clod of moss off the ground with his foot and his face lit up with surprise.
I toddled over to see what he found and saw an enormous black shadow laying underneath the red dirt and bright green moss. It was a giant sized truffle that outsized all of the truffle dog’s truffles by far! Looks like the Boy has found his new calling. My truffle snuffling husband. I married well. As I sadly handed over the weighty specimen to its rightful owner I secretly hoped he would exchange one of the smaller golf ball sized truffles as payment but alas all he offered was one of Latte’s liver treats. Erm, no thankyou!
After our truffle hunt we met up with my dear friend Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse for a Masterclass with Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse and Paul Wyman from Colonial Brewery. They teamed together to show us that food and drink matching isn’t just for wine but can easily be done with craft beers.
Unfortunately for me, Colonial cannot produce any gluten free beers but Hadleigh was thoughtful enough to source some locally produced gluten beers for me from Billabong Brewery. It was a joy to watch two masters at their craft talk so passionately about their industries and it reminded me that it is important to always follow your dream.
Hadleigh created a two course journey matched with three rounds of Colonial beers. Whilst I didn’t get to try Colonial brew, the Boy is quite the beer expert and was happy to inform me they got his fussy tick of approval. He enjoyed their complexity in flavour and was inspired to make sure we visit their brewery next time we are in Margaret River.
For our third and final festival day, I had booked tickets for the Southern Forests Farmers Long Table lunch. This was a much more casual affair than the higher profile Hunt and Harvest dinner which made a nice contrast in experiences.
Our table was adorned with an abundance of locally sourced fresh produce including potatoes, kale and silver beet. The lunch pulled on the talents of three amazing WA chefs; Kiren Mainwaring from Co-op Dining, Joel Valvasori from Lalla Rookh and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio.
Every ingredient used in the three course lunch excluding staples such as sugar, flour and salt were sourced from the Southern Forest region. Kiren’s dish included one of his signature elements; a slow cooked egg. This was paired with a savoury meringue, cauliflower puree, shaved cauliflower and of course, fresh truffle. It was a wondrous play on textures with a layer of subtle sweetness coming from the gelatinous yolk and the air-puff crisp meringue.
There was a brief interlude before main course for local potato growers Carlo and Bob Pessotto to talk to us about the diverse range of potatoes available in Australia. We were served two potatoes; a Kipfler and a Laura. They were roasted and served with a spoonful of molten butter drizzled on top. They wanted to use this as a way to highlight that there can be such a range in flavour and texture between the different potato varieties and encouraged us to try experimenting with eating more types.
Joel’s dish of ricotta gnocchi, lamb and mushroom ragu and fresh truffle effectively silenced the table for minutes as everyone was too busy tucking into its deliciousness. It was just what the cold winter weather commanded and was the perfect way to warm our heart and soul.
He adapted my dish to be gluten free by replacing the gnocchi with thick, creamy polenta. The polenta partially soaked up all the richly flavoured juices from the ragu meaning there was no missing out for this gluten free girl.
Sophie’s dessert utilised the vibrant coloured local Pink Lady apples topping a hazelnut and frangipani tart on a short crust pastry with clotted cream and shavings of truffle.
My gluten free version omitted the pastry and my apple doubled in sized in comparison to everyone else’s. Many of you know that apples are not ideal for a fructose malabsorber however I was prepared to tough it out after slugging some glucose tablets down my throat. Glucose can help with absorption of fructose to an extent. If only there was a pill to reverse the effect of eating gluten how much easier would life be? As the lunch came to a close, we were offered to help ourselves to the produce on the table. I plopped a number of those tasty local potatoes in our bag with the plans to devour them for dinner at our chalet that evening.
Our basic chalet back in Pemberton didn’t have an oven in its kitchen but it did have a pot belly stove. Upon our return from the festival that afternoon, it didn’t take the Boy long to get the fire roaring. I smothered the potatoes in some truffle butter that we bought earlier that day, wrapped them in foil and poked them deep into the hot coals.
What was I saying about the simple things in life? After a weekend of eating decadently with lunches and dinners prepared by famous chefs, it was such pleasure going back to basics. Once our hot potatoes were cooked, I added more spoonfuls of truffle butter and cheekily grated fresh truffle on top. That was our dinner for the evening. It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.Truffle Kerfuffle truffle festival 2014 prices: General entry Weekend Pass – Adult $30, Child $15 Hunt & Harvest Dinner $220 including wine Truffle Hunt $40 Masterclasses ranged from $65-145. My Masterclass cost $85 Farmers Long Table Lunch $125 In addition to all her dietary issues, Chompchomp also suffers from a serious condition called FOMO, or Fear-of-missing-out. Consequently she had no desire to wait and see what events she may or may not receive invitations to via her blog and promptly booked her TK weekend for full price on the first day the tickets were released. And it was worth every cent. Trustee Bar InContro Grossi Restaurants Millbrook Winery Taste of Balingup Kent Street Deli Pata Negra Restaurant Amuse Co-op Dining Lalla Rookh
Only a few weeks ago the Boy and I shared a very memorable lunch at Dear Friends and it was easily one of the best meals we have had in Perth for some time. I love their philosophy of focusing on local and seasonal produce with much of their ingredients being sourced directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. On our way home that day we both decided to book in at their city restaurant Co-op Dining, East Perth to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary.
I am still nursing a broken toe therefore my ability to go running has come grinding to a complete halt. We enjoy eating out a lot and I am totally devastated that I can no longer burn it all off on the tarmac. Honestly, it won’t be long before I’m the size of a small house. In a vain attempt to mitigate the anticipated caloric excesses for our dinner we agreed to walk, or in my case shuffle, from our house to Co-op Dining. I sighed in disappointment that I cannot wear high heels, sulkily chucked a pair of flats in my LV bag and headed off in my flip-flops.
It was a Friday night and both of us had to work the next day meaning a degustation was unfortunately out of the question. Instead we chose the five course menu with a couple of suggested wines by the glass. A bit more of a reserved affair compared to our lunch date at Dear Friends when I am told I may have been a bit flamboyant.
Work or no work I just couldn’t commence this celebratory meal without some bubbles; Champagne definitely remains one of my weaknesses. Coop Dining serve NV Gosset Grande Reserve by the glass which comes from one of the oldest and original Champagne houses originating way back to 1584. Rich and creamy with incredible structure I made sure I savoured every drop. The Boy chose to bypass the booze and ordered a lemon and lime bitters made with lemon myrtle and fresh limes. Some of the soft house churned Guernsey butter that we had enjoyed at Dear Friends was served alongside some home-made bread.
Our first course was a sweet Manjimup marron served with peppery watercress puree, Swan River samphire, a twig of warrigal and some glistening syrupy fermented lime. The samphire has quite an unusual salty, tangy flavour and is foraged from the banks of an estuary near the Swan River. It was the same type of samphire that we enjoyed last year at Millbrook Winery as part of the Mushroom Mania campaign.
The Boy’s next dish was a luscious chestnut soup made from whole roasted chestnuts grown locally in Bridgetown. I really love how these guys are such great supporters of WA produce. His soup was rich and creamy and smelt like Paris in winter to me. For those who are yet to travel to this romantic city; roasted chestnuts are sold there as street food in cones of newspaper on the boulevards.
Although I was highly envious of the Boy’s heart-warming chestnut soup, I was not to be disappointed with my non-vegetarian option. Chef made his own rabbit chorizo which he served with some WA cuttlefish and more of that dangerously black squid ink puree that we enjoyed at our Dear Friends lunch. The slight gamey flavour of the rabbit was in no way overpowering and balanced graciously with a gentle kick from the cute little blob of kimchee. I successfully avoided getting any squid ink on me again. Winning. Maybe I’m gaining more coordination in my older years?
For our next dish, the house made soy tofu made a return visit too. I like how each of the menus for their restaurants shared key elements but then diverged out into their own individuality. Coop’s tofu dish looked so simplistic and symmetrical with each ingredient placed in alternation across the slate. Cubes of house made soy tofu and velvety soft chunks of confit carrot were sprinkled with dashes of spinach powder and placed on a bed of smoked egg yolk.
Looks can be deceiving and although this dish may appear basic, more complex flavours were thoughtfully hidden to surprise us. The smoked yolk was thick and strongly flavoured and gave the more subtle flavoured tofu and carrot a bit of oomph. The gently scented wild garlic is foraged on the Mainwaring’s property and I couldn’t help but smile when Kelli’s eyes lit up as she told us how each year they get so excited when they see it sprout up.
The Boy and I diverged again for our next course as mine included **shock horror** meat. I was given a choice of pork belly or Wagyu beef and opted for the later. Admittedly I confess that as it was a Friday night and as I was onto my third glass of wine by this point my mind had blissfully travelled off with the fairies. As a result I forgot to photograph my dish until I have already devoured a few wondrous mouthfuls. My deepest apologies dear readers, however I’m sure you can still get the idea what luscious cuts of beef they were from what was left on my plate. Cooked over bark and crusted with carbonised leek powder each piece of 4+ Wagyu beef was as soft as sashimi. The wine match for this dish was the 2012 Myattsfield Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier and was the second time I had tried this local wine from Myattsfield Wines. After our lovely outing at the Bickley Harvest Festival I have started to appreciate the sumptuous reds made in this region and are going to need to return for more.
The Boy’s vegetarian main focused on Jerusalem artichoke which is just still in season for a few more weeks. The artichoke was prepared two ways; cooked artichoke was compressed into chunks overnight and cooked sous vide and then for the base of the dish was artichoke purée. Chunks of leeks and courgettes tumbled in amongst Guernsey curd and Nasturtium flowers. Mushroom and green olive powder was sprinkled over for a strong flavour boost.
Although we only selected the five course menu, the chef was so kind to send us a complimentary cheese course. It was called Brin d’Amour, or “birth of love”. A perfect choice to celebrate our first six months as newly-weds! Chef Kiren makes this traditional Corsican cheese himself using half Guernsey and half ewes milk. Once made it is rolled in mustard seeds, house made smoked paprika, rosemary, oregano and black onion seeds. The whole process takes about two weeks. The cheese was served with carrot molasses and olive bread. I received some gluten free bread as a replacement.
I was a little off my form as I also forgot to take a picture of our pre-dessert; fresh Donnybrook mandarins and lemon scented fennel topped with Thai basil flowers. A mouthful of spring this cleansed the flavours of dairy goodness off our palates in preparation for our final course.
Once again I appreciated the personal touches made by the Mainwaring team to make our experience all the more memorable with “Happy” and “Anniversary” scribed in chocolate on each of our plates.
Juicy fresh Donnybrook Pink lady apples took the centre stage star for the finale. On a bed of peachy coloured apple puree laid an ice cool scoop of rhubarb sorbet encircled by portions of fresh and poached apples. Topped with slivers of glass sugar, oats and pistachios I loved the layering of textures, temperatures and flavours.
Our night ended with some healthy and cleansing Kombucha, a type of fermented slightly effervescent black tea.
It comes as no surprise that Co-op Dining came out winners at the recent Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards where they received a placing in the top 100 restaurants in Australia. Both Co-op and Dear Friends were also awarded One Star in the highly esteemed GT Restaurant Guide for 2014. This is a team that have proven and maintained their place as foodie “royalty” in Perth yet remain humble, modest and true to their passion. We will most definitely be back.Co-op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au Price: $$$$ (5 course menu $95, 10 course menu $120, matched wines extra) Food: 5/5 (consistently excellent, original and proudly West Australian) Service: 5/5 (once again charming, enthusiastic and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (would have been improved if busier but we had our own booth and each other, who needs more?) Drinks: 4.5/5 (wished I could have gone for matched wine as my selected few were wonderful ) Total: 18.5/20
One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
Dear Friends is located on the rural flat lands of the Swan Valley and has featured in the Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Good Food Guide year after year. Chef Kiren focuses on utilising the variety of local and seasonal produce from the region sourcing directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. The entrance to the restaurant is quaint and understated, bordering on old fashioned. For our seven course degustation I chose to have the matched wines and for each course sommelier Kelli took time to explain to me the origin of each wine and why she chose it.
The Boy and I now each have our own individual dietary requirements; obviously I’m still gluten free and fructose friendly but more recently the Boy is a vegetarian. I can see how some kitchens would baulk at having the two of us as their customers. Upon arrival we were immediately made to feel relaxed and at ease as our dietary requirements presented the Dear Friends team with no problems. More importantly each of our dishes were not just ones with alterations and deletions but were carefully planned; plated with elegance and originality.
Our first course consisted of some “tasters”; call them modern day amuse bouche if you like. There were super cheesy Manchego tacos containing some house made fresh cheese, crispy lupin chips topped with eggplant and Saratoga chips with balsamic vinegar. Despite being proud of both my father’s French heritage and all the cheeses that come from this fabulous country I have to confess Spanish Manchego is by far one of my favourite cheeses. It has such a distinctive flavour and the tacos made me reminiscent of my recent over indulgence in Barcelona.
My next course was a Welsh styled watercress soup. Watercress is supposed to aid with the digestion and this soup certainly did sit wonderfully warm in my stomach. The soft flaky blue swimmer crab contrasted with the strong pepperiness from the watercress leaving a fresh crisp taste on the palate.
My third course was the same as the Boy’s as it was a vegetarian dish. Who on Earth said vegetarian food was boring? Silky cubes of home-made soy tofu and locally grown Swan Valley field and oyster mushrooms sat upon a richly flavoured bed of smoky tomato puree. Some crunchy parsnip chips provided an interesting change in texture. This dish threatened to turn any meat eater into a vegetarian!
My next course of West Australian cuttlefish was served with tender tips of new season asparagus, Muchea grown Japanese turnips and shavings of fennel. I was intrigued by these turnips having never eaten them before as they were nearly as sweet as the fennel and as soft like potato. As I made my way through each of the generous wine matches I was glad this dish featured early in the meal. I tend to be a bit of a messy eater; which can worsen the more wine I drink. I could see the potential for me making a complete spectacle of myself and ending up with black ink purée everywhere.
As much as I am very respectful and proud of the Boy in his strong decision to become a vegetarian, I am yet to join him 100% and for my next course I could sense his disapproval at me eating animal flesh. I can console myself that Dear Friends source their organic free range pork from Margaret River Big Red Pork. Big Red’s pigs are kept in small family groups and run free range in the creek lines, grass lands and woodlands of their farm. They are fed on a natural diet of grasses, legumes, grains and grubs which gives the meat a characteristic dark colour. The Kassler pork loin was cured using a German technique which involves smoking and ripening the meat in brine for about 7-10 days. It was served with yellow squash and pickled cucumber. The cucumber gave some lovely sweetened acidity to the saltiness of the meat.
There was no missing out for the Boy as his next vegetarian course looked just as mouth-watering as mine. A near-translucent slow cooked egg sat nestled in amongst a variety of freshly foraged vegetables and herbs. As he cut into the egg, the yolk burst into life engulfing everything on his plate. Regrettably I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this egg porn moment as I was far too engrossed enjoying my cured pork.
My final main course was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Over the years I have worked my way through eating a variety of slow cooked meats but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a lamb cutlet prepared in this way. It was just as delicately soft as you could ever imagine. To complete the decadence it was finished with a bone marrow jus. Oh heaven! I was grateful for the lack of pretension and stuffiness as I just couldn’t help myself picking up the chop with my fingers and nibbling every last tasty morsel off the bone, not something I could get away with at every fine dining establishment. My Mum would shudder at the thought!
The Boy’s final main dish was a thick Glamorgan sausage served with Brussel sprouts, celeriac and broccoli. Glamorgan sausage is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage made with cheese, leek, potato, cabbage, herbs and breadcrumbs. A fermented Chenin hollandaise sauce was drizzled luxuriously over everything on his plate.
It was now time to veer away from all these amazing savoury courses and enjoy some sweets. Our pre-dessert teaser consisted of two medallions of macadamia and white chocolate chiboust which is basically pastry cream lightened with egg white meringue. Light and airy, each portion of chiboust dissolved with a “poof” on the tongue. Dollops of kumquat curd and glazed kumquats gave a tart element to the dish along with the nutty sweetness of shavings of locally grown macadamias. The Boy also received a paper thin peppercorn tuille.
Our dessert was quite possibly one of the most stunning carrot cakes I have ever seen. Made with purple carrots it was scattered in soft crumbles around a scoop of carrot ice-cream and decorated with honey comb, marshmallows, fresh blueberries and cute little sour grass flowers. As my belly expanded over the top of my pants it was hard to believe our magical afternoon was nearly over.
However as many of you will know, it doesn’t matter how full I am I can always fit in cheese. The cheese course at Dear Friends is an optional extra but if you have the gumption to squeeze it in I can highly recommend it. Our three cheeses were Ubriaco al Vino Rosso, an Italian hard cheese from Northern Italy, a West Australian brie from Dellendale in Denmark and Colsten Bassett Shropshire Blue, a lesser known blue from the same cheese makers as the famous English Blue Stilton. Kelli continued to be far too generous and offered me not one but two different wine matches to go with our cheese; thank goodness I wasn’t driving!
The concept of enjoying a coffee after a degustation is always so appealing. However most of our dego experiences are in the evening so unless I want to lay wide awake in bed all night I tend to end up drinking tea instead. I look on in envy at those that can drink coffee after dinner and then fall blissfully asleep. Being a lunch time meal I was in luck this time round as the time to sleep was still a long way off. Knowing this was a rare opportunity I made sure I savoured every last drop.
It is easy to see why Dear Friends has maintained their position as one of Perth’s top restaurants for a number of years. Sommelier Kelli provides charming and faultless service whilst each dish clearly shows Kiren’s passion and love for his craft. A definite thumbs up from both of us; and as we walked away we were already planning our visit to their East Perth digs Co-Op Dining.Dear Friends Restaurant 100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Price: $$$$ ($115 for a 7 course degustation, $70 for matched wine) Food: 5/5 (each dish was filled with wonderment despite our different dietary requirements) Service: 5/5 (charming, knowledgeable and with a humble sense of well-deserved pride) Ambience: 4/5 (you do feel like you are in the country) Drinks: 4.5/5 (seamless matching of wines) Total: 18.5/20