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.
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
I have lived in the Vic Park area for nearly twenty years and have loved watching the neighbourhood develop and grow. It is a great place to live for numerous reasons but in my humble opinion one of the biggest selling factors is the variety of restaurants and cafes sitting right on our doorstep. I’m certain we nearly have the “A to Z” of international cuisine and so we never seem to run out of options. One of our regular haunts in the past has been The Precinct; a casual but funky eatery only a short fifteen minute stroll from our front door. The past few months my life has been exceedingly complicated and stressful and so when my Bestie proposed to me to catch up with another mutual close friend of ours Shannon I leaped at the opportunity to be able to switch off and relax. To make things even easier for me, Shannon was more than happy to travel over to our stompin’ ground and let us go local. Getting a booking at the last-minute on a Friday night can be tricky and after several phone calls to different restaurants I was starting to think we were out of luck. Finally we had success and managed to secure a table at the Precinct, seeing as we hadn’t been there for a several months we were happy to return.
There are some people who genuinely have the talent of listening and empathising to others. Whilst this may be a skill one can try and develop; to truly master it you actually need to be a certain type of soft and caring personality type. My Bestie is one of those people and she has always been able to centre her attention on whoever she is speaking to with incredibly genuine sincerity. Recently she has taken on a job as a carer’s consultant where she provides both individual and group support to the carers in the Esperance area. Being somewhat of a free spirit in the past, this direction and responsibility has brought out a great sense of worth and pride within her. I cannot describe how happy it makes me to know she has finally landed on her feet and found her calling.
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.
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.
Although I’m not really a baby person it is hard not to get excited when a close friend falls pregnant. One of our long-term vets is nearly at the end of her first pregnancy and she is one of those gentle, nurturing types that just seems to be born to be a mother. The joys of anticipation for the approaching arrival were very infectious amongst us women at work, so in a rather unconventional styled baby shower we all gathered together at Feral Brewing Company for a Sunday lunch to celebrate. It was the first sunny day in weeks and it was heavenly to be able to enjoy some country sunshine.
Part One: Finalising our Phuket Wedding Preparations!
Prior to getting engaged I often toyed around in my head with the idea of eloping off to somewhere exotic. Like many people I have a divided family with my real parents and my respective step parents not exactly being the best of friends. Having to brave getting all these loved ones in the same room sounded like a daunting feat and one that could prove best to avoid. Our engagement party at The George provided me with a safe way to test the waters and despite all the anxiety and tension in the build-up to the evening along with very disappointing customer service from the George’s staff; everyone managed to get along wonderfully. In fact we all had an absolute ball. It dawned upon me that I should give my family much more credit.
I am fortunate enough to work on the doorstep of the Swan Valley. This means that it is relatively easy to have some office meetings out and about and over the years we have developed a few favourites. Taylor’s Art and Coffee House has been one of those locations mainly due to their excellent coffee and interesting range of gluten free cakes. Their coffee is sourced from a small local company called Dark Star who roast their own imported beans on site in Northbridge. It is a full flavoured coffee that is perfect for an espresso or short mac, just how I like it.
Choosing a venue to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday was left up to me and with some winter sunshine on the forecast I suggested a trip to the valley. The Boy’s family appreciate eating big hearty meals in a casual relaxed dining atmosphere so I knew Taylor’s Art and Coffee House would fit the bill perfectly. No pretension or tiny plates of food.
Some of you may think I’m a bit insane throwing myself head first into the Mushroom Mania celebrations every year but I can assure you I am not the only one. In addition to a number of bloggers from around the country, there are many local chefs and food producers that join in the mushroomy celebrations. Last week I introduced you to Cris from Perth City Farm who is totally mad for his mushrooms, nurturing them carefully from spores to fruit with tenderness and loving care. And it shows; his mushrooms are packed full of flavour and were so meaty I swear they nearly tasted like chicken. For the second post in my Mushroom Mania series this year, I wanted to take it beyond just eating one or two mushrooms dishes. I wanted to find a talented chef who was willing to make me a whole mushroom themed degustation. I approached Chef Scott O’Sullivan from the award-winning Red Cabbage Food and Wine in South Perth to see if he was keen. It turns out that he and his wife are big mushroom fans and he jumped at the opportunity to join in the fun!
The Boqueria Markets in Barcelona date all the way back to the 1400s when a pig market existed on the same site where the markets exist today. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later in 1826 that these markets were legally recognised and shortly later an official undercover structure was built. Unlikely most things in Spain, the Boqueria markets get well under way by mid-morning and so I advise you to get there well before 12 pm. I made the mistake of fueling up at my hotel’s breakfast buffet and arrived at the markets with a full belly. Definite fail. Next time I am in Barcelona, I will be sure to arrive at Boqueria Markets hungry. Very hungry.
These markets are filled will all sorts of fresh local produce and if your accommodation has kitchen facilities I suggest you do your food shopping here! Or better still grab yourself some provisions and head to Park Guell for a picnic in the Spanish sunshine.
This year is my second year that I have been selected as one of fourteen bloggers from around Australia to participate in Mushroom Mania. This is a campaign run by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association in the month of July every year where they join thousands of restaurants, cafes, bistros, pubs and clubs to celebrate the wondrous mushroom. They spread their message through both traditional and online media and run competitions where you can win $100 restaurant vouchers. For the past few years they have embraced food blogs as a way to communicate with foodies and recruit a handful of us to do what we do best, go out to restaurants, eat and shoot food then go home and write about it. The only catch is that we have to eat dishes containing mushrooms!
This year the Boy’s birthday caught us both by surprise as it seemed to come around with lightning speed. Appreciably the first half of our year was a whirlwind hurricane of wedding planning followed by the most fantastic wedding celebrations. I haven’t even had time to stop and catch my breath yet half the year is already gone by. It is such madness how quickly time can fly when you are busy. As we really need to try to fit more exercise into our hectic routines instead of catching taxis to restaurants we have been choosing restaurants that are within walking distance from our house and getting ourselves there on foot. Some of these restaurants have been relatively local and close to home such as Pinto Thai, but others have been a vigorous hour and a half trek away like The Stables Bar in the City.
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.
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!