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.
I recently attended the South Africa Roadshow held at the Burswood Convention Centre. South Africa has always been on my bucket list and I imagined this would be an event aimed at people in the travel media including journalists and bloggers. I soon found out that it was actually a night for travel agents to help them learn to pitch and sell different tours and resorts to their customers. Not really applicable to my blog at all.
While the Boy was keen to stay and enjoy all the free South African wine, I had come off the back of a long day with not much to eat and was hungry enough to eat my own arm. After asking the waitress three times if there was anything gluten free I quickly grew tired of waiting around for a reply and decided to leave. I had given the event organisers advance notice of my gluten free requirement but obviously this was to no avail.
Instead of returning home, the Boy agreed to stay for dinner but requested we go somewhere cheap. I have a history of blowing the budget at the Crown and with their flagship restaurants including Rockpool, Nobu and Bistro Guillaume it is an easy thing to do. I knew that their cheaper option Market & Co was in the Entertainment Book which would mean we would get a discount of up for $45 off our meal. I found a bunch of gluten free options on the menu with a few more dishes able to be adapted. We started with the salt and pepper cuttlefish with Asian coleslaw. It was fairly decent serve for the price, freshly fried and coated in thin gluten free batter. The coleslaw had seen better days and was not much more than a pile of tired looking cabbage.
The Boy ordered the lobster risotto. It was served on a bed of truffled corn purée and garnished with random blobs of salsa verde splashed across the plate like an accident. The risotto was laced with a generous amount of “lobster” meat which was really crayfish however this dish was somewhat ruined by the faint dishwater after-taste as if the rice had been cooked in a dirty pan.
I chose the grilled salmon which the chef adapted to be gluten free. It came with a shiitake mushroom risotto and an oddly placed squiggle of saffron beurre blanc on the side of the plate. Presentation was seemingly not the chef’s strong point for the evening but despite my dish’s appearance the mushroom risotto was creamy and tasted freshly made.
The only gluten free dessert option at Market & Co was a fruit salad which didn’t inspire me at all. Instead I managed to twist the Boy’s arm and convince him to head next door to Nobu for a night cap. On the walk over I reminded him of Nobu’s drop dead gorgeous gluten free chocolate fondant with its luscious eruption of gooey chocolate centre. I even dug up a photo on my phone to remind him.
I am pretty sure he wasn’t even listening to me, he just heard “green tea ice cream” and it was a done deal for him.
However after taking our seats at the bar in a brief moment of spontaneity, I ended up ordering us the other gluten free option on the menu; the salted caramel miso parfait. Topped with Tonka foam and white chocolate and garnished with caramelised popcorn, it appeared to me that my highly esteemed fondant had met its match.
The obvious solution to this conundrum is that now I am going to have to go back to Nobu again, order both the fondant AND the parfait and then compare them both to find out the real winner! 😉 I mean, chocolate fondant + salted caramel parfait + popcorn + champagne….does it actually get any better than that?Chompchomp was an invited guest of the South Africa Roadshow where she enjoyed a couple of glasses free wines and cheese. Sadly that was the extent of the freebies for the evening and the meal at Market & Co and Nobu was funded for by herself and the Boy. Not to worry as the Entertainment Card gave a neat little discount off the total bill making it a super cheap night. Market & Co Crown Promenade Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/casual/market-co/about www.noburestaurants.com/perth
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
It has been years since Mum has come over to visit us in Perth and even longer since she came over with her other half, Jack. They both adore our South West region and requested that we take them down to “The Margaret’s River” as Mum loves to call it. No amount of convincing can get her to call it otherwise.
It is rare for us to be able to relax together so to celebrate this occasion I booked us in at Vasse Felix winery for a long lazy lunch. On our way to Vasse Felix we stopped off at Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company.
Neither Mum nor Jack are big wine drinkers so the Boy and I tried to avoid boring them to pieces with winery after winery. Bettenay’s do have some wines on offer in addition to some luscious liqueurs and, of course, loads of nougat. Their nougat is all handcrafted with gorgeous flavours including cherry and coconut, and my favourite chocolate mint.
After each purchasing a bundle of nougat we headed off to one of Margaret River’s most popular caves; Lake Cave. It has been ages since the Boy and I have gone down into the caves yet every time we do we are reminded what a natural beauty it is.
Lake Cave has one of the only “suspended tables” in the world which weighs several tonnes and forms a breathtaking sight floating in the air casting its refection in the ripples of water below. This cave is one of the deepest in the region so be prepared to walk down and then back up a fair number of steep stairs. There are rest points along the way for those less fit and able.
There were enough stairs to work up anyone’s appetite and after the Caves we headed straight to Vasse Felix for lunch. It was a long weekend and I was grateful that I had pre-booked because every winery that we passed along the way looked packed with cars.
Vasse Felix have an à la carte menu or alternatively if you select dishes marked on the menu with a star you can enjoy three courses for a set price of $65.
There were a handful of gluten free options and one vegetarian dish for each course. Upon arrival our waitress brought out some fresh bread and cultured butter. There was no gluten free bread available so they kindly brought out some marinated olives for me to nibble on while my family hungrily feasted on the bread.
The marinated olives are sourced from a local olive farm called 34 Degrees South and were served warm. I loved how the olive flesh slithered off the pit easily and consequently I downed most of the bowl before I realised that I should probably share.
Mum and Jack both ordered the omelette for entrée. Cooked sous-vide with mirin, it was served with new season asparagus and locally foraged mushrooms. The egg was browned to a glowing caramel colour and garnished with chilli threads, tiny crumbles of popcorn and togarashi. Togarashi is a type of Japanese chilli pepper and thankfully it wasn’t too hot for my Mum’s palate. The omelette was a gluten free dish however to avoid all three of us having the same dish, I ordered the other gluten free option which was the quail.
I struggled somewhat get a good photo of my entrée due to the sun coming in at an angle on my deep bowled dish. Maybe I need to bring a reflector with me when I’m out dining? Is that too crazy? My quail breast was cooked sous-vide with a confit leg and served on a bed of quinoa, zucchini and olives. It was topped with what I first thought was shaved parmesan but soon found out was feta shaved in liquid nitrogen. It had an unexpected creaminess that dissolved on contact with my tongue. To enhance the delicateness of this light dish some caper puree added some punch into the flavours.
For his entrée, the Boy decided to pop his ramen cherry. Ramen hasn’t really taken off in Perth to the extent it has over in Sydney and therefore neither of us have tried it before. Using house made ramen noodles, this dish was given a South-west twist using Manjimup marron and local fresh water crustaceans. A soft gooey quail egg and some fried nori finished it off and as the aromas wafted to my side of the table I was so envious that I couldn’t even taste one mouthful. Damn you gluten!
For those of you who have yet to try Cone Bay barramundi, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. These fish are farmed in unique environmental conditions in the north west of Australia that imparts a very clean, and sweet taste.
The fish came with a potato fondant and shards of translucent potato glass topped with luxurious drizzles of smoked oyster butter. It was nearly as good as truffle butter. Nearly I said! There was also a little bit of fructose naughtiness with locally foraged charred leeks and leek foam.
Mum and Jack both ordered the lamb shank for their main, such peas in a pod those two! The locally sourced lamb was cooked sous-vide over 48 hours making it uber-soft in texture however sadly it was served lukewarm. I offered to get the waitress to take it back to the kitchen but my Mum didn’t want to make a fuss. The lamb was accompanied with a black barley risotto and ratatouille made of smoked tomato petal, tomato fondue, picked red onion and eggplant purée.
Although the Boy predominantly will stick to his vegetarian diet at home, like me he can on occasions crave meat. Ordering himself the kangaroo loin today was one of these days.
The loin was served rare and was as lean can be without an ounce of detectable fat present. It was served with textures of beetroot, wattleseed crackers and oil made from dandelions foraged on the property.
Our mains were decent sized meals so after stuffing our faces with the addictive duck fat potatoes there was only a small amount of room left for dessert. We agreed to share a couple of petit fours plates between the four of us however the only gluten free element on the plate was the passionfruit macaron. There was only one macaron on each platter but the waitress was kind enough to put an extra one on there for me.
The Boy was absolutely smitten by the bite size ice cream sandwich made with cinnamon ice cream. Many of us food bloggers claim to have a second stomach for dessert and whilst I was reasonably full, one macaron was not going to cut it even if it was one of my favourite flavours.
Consequently I ordered the gluten free dessert option to share with the Boy. I love abstract desserts, plates of multiple elements that you can mix and match on your tastebuds at your leisure. Fluffy portions of cardamom chiffon cake and silky chocolate cremeaux were paired with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Passionfruit caramel and gel added a tart sweetness with chocolate soil and dehydrated mouse contrasting with velvety cocoa bitterness. Heavenly to say the least. My claims for being full surpassed me as I competed with the Boy for every spoonful.
The weekend went by all too quickly, time honestly does fly when you’re having fun. There is no one in the world that can make me laugh the way my Mum can and I realise that I need to stop running the rat race of life and take time out to giggle with her more often.Disclaimer: Despite Mum and Jack insisting on trying to pay for everything, the Boy and I managed to sneak in paying our own way for lunch. Blame it on that independent streak of mine. I want to thank Mum, Jack and my beloved for sharing such a wondrous weekend away. Our times together are always cherished xxxx Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Co Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Miamup Road, Cowaramup, WA 6284 | (08) 9755 5539 | www.margaretrivernougat.com.au Lake Cave Caves Road, Forest Grove WA 6284 | (08) 9757 7411 | www.margaretriver.com/operators/7706 Vasse Felix Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
When I find something I love, I complete submerge myself into a level of addiction that often needs to be controlled by an external party, usually the Boy. Or sometimes it is controlled by the increasing numbers on my bathroom scales. Nevertheless, over the years I have come to accept that this is part of my personality and provided I have someone to check me into line when I get too carried away, it is a quick way to brighten up my day. Some of my obsessions are long lasting and others come and go like fashion so I thought I would share with you my top five gluten free indulgences for Winter 2014.
1. Manjimup Black truffles
I am not a fan of winter, I really feel the cold and spend a large portion of this time of year huddled in front of a heater reluctant to move. However there is one highlight of winter which is the truffle season. For the duration of the three month truffle season our household goes truffle mad; chasing degustations, festivals and buying any fresh truffled product we can get our hands on. My fridge will be continuously stocked with truffle butter, truffle mustard, and truffle aioli and sometimes even some real fresh black truffle. One of my favourite ready made products is the truffle aioli made by the Truffle and Wine Company. It is knee-staggeringly truffilicious and fortunately I can purchase it throughout winter from a local Vic Park store called Nosh Gourmet.
2. Hot Pot Popcorn
Popcorn would have to come in at a close number two for this winter. It’s somewhat healthy, naturally gluten free and incredibly moreish. But when you add the fact that Hot Pot’s popcorn is popped locally in Perth and is not mass produced, it ticks even more boxes for me. Hot Pot Popcorn have a number of addictable flavours with their Peri peri popcorn being one of their most popular. I am a slightly sweet, slightly salty fan but I recently tried their cinnamon flavour and it was tha bomb! It’s available at the Manning Farmers Market and a few independent grocers, head to their website for more information.
3. Pana Chocolate Sour Cherry + Vanilla
Chocolate has been a staple food for me since I could walk but more recently I have seriously got into eating raw chocolate and prefer it to the more mainstream stuff. The problem with this is that most raw chocolate is sweetened with agave syrup. Now whilst this is gluten free, agave is about 90% fructose and whenever I eat significant quantities my gut becomes very unhappy. Pana Chocolate is a Melbourne based company that makes handmade raw chocolate using all natural ingredients. One of their flavours; the Sour Cherry and Vanilla 60% cacao is made without added agave and uses coconut nectar as a sweetener instead. Totally fructose friendly, woot!
4. Au Naturale juices
After initially trialling a three day juice cleanse complementary of Au Naturale Juice back in February this year, juice cleansing has become a monthly routine for me. I never thought I would be able to survive for three days without eating solids as I am the type of person who is already planning what to eat for dinner in the morning as I’m eating my breakfast. Food spends a large part of its time taking up my subconscious thoughts and I imagined I would be one of the LAST people to be up for a juice cleanse. Let alone repeating one every month! Yet now, each month I look forward to the energy it injects into me and the “rest” that I give my overworked digestive system seems to do wonders for my allergies, skin and gut health. I have continued to stick with using Au Naturale for my cleanses as the company’s owner Jac is always happy to adapt her juices individually to be more fructose friendly. Her cleanses are all-inclusive with everything you need and you can also include extra options such as herbal teas, miso paste, flavoured broths and nut milks.
5. Warm Spiced Rice pudding from the Tapas Man at the Vic Park Farmers Market
I cannot describe how happy I am that we now have our very own Farmer’s Market in Vic Park. My progression to become someone who takes eating seasonally and locally as a way of life has become so much easier. The Boy and I look forward to a market stall breakfast each week, come rain or shine, and enjoy that we can plan our week’s meals based on whatever looks good at the fresh produce stalls. The Boy will alternate between a number of the different food vendors each week and has worked his way around many of the options trying vegetarian Banh Mi’s from Baguette Me Not, Mexican baked eggs from That Little Mexican Place and Perfect Poffertje’s Dutch pancakes. In contrast I have been very repetitive with my breakfast choice. Call it my final addiction for winter; my breakfast every week is the Tapas Man’s warm spiced pudding with poached fruits and toasted almonds. Once you have tried it you will struggle to order anything else. Unfortunately they are not at the markets every week so check their Facebook page before you get your hopes up!Chompchomp did not receive any payment or gifts in lieu of this post and it is written purely because she wanted to share her obsessions with her readers. Chompchomp accepts no responsibility for any subsequent addiction that may develop in any of her readers in the aftermath from reading this post. She advises that the purchase of any of the above mentioned products is done at the individual’s risk.
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
A couple of months ago I attended a very motivating seminar by Darren Rowse the founder of Problogger. This was the first time he had come to Perth to share some of the secrets of his blogging successes. Having already attended two Eat Drink Blog conferences I was unsure what I could learn in one seminar yet I came away refreshed with loads of new ideas and approaches. I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the blogging community including one of my close friends Michelle from Foodie Cravings. After the seminar finished the two of us were keen to brainstorm a few ideas and the most logical way to inspire the two of us is with food. Wanting to go somewhere nearby I suggested we try Three Five Three in Wembley as I heard on the grapevine that they have free popcorn. And that is enough to draw my attention!
I was not to be disappointed. Every table was already adorned with a joyous bowl of freshly popped corn. I have a number of weaknesses and my addiction to popcorn is not something I hide very well. I have been known on countless occasions to eat whole bags in one sitting and I am on a first name basis with the gourmet popcorn company Hot Pot Popcorn purely because I buy it so often. Three Five Three’s popcorn was lightly salted without any fancy flavouring but this still hit the spot for me regardless. Especially when it’s for free.
The menu is very gluten free friendly with a number of options for both entrées and mains. Michelle is a very easy-going person to dine out with and she is always happy limit herself to the gluten free dishes so we can share. We started with the minted haloumi served with smoked chipotle and a zesty salsa. The haloumi slices were grilled lightly and squeaked delightfully with every bite.
Upon the chef’s recommendation we also tried the bruschetta made using gluten free corn bread that the chef had only just baked earlier that morning. I enjoyed the bread’s doughy texture however I am obviously quite accustomed to the ups and downs of gluten free bread. Michelle wasn’t as excited by the corn bread and was happy for me to finish the dish off.
Since the Boy moved to eating a plant-based diet I sometimes find myself craving protein when I’m out and about. For my main dish I ordered the Hideaway Bay Tasmanian salmon served lightly pan seared on top of a nicoise salad of potatoes, olives and green beans. A spoonful of uplifting fennel and lemon salsa further brightened this happy dish leaving me with a lovely clean feeling on my palate. My salmon steak was a rich dark pink colour on the inside resulting in a silky smooth texture.
Michelle ordered the chilli mussels which was served in a South-eastern Asian style as opposed to the usual tomato based sauce often used. A light coconut cream broth flavoured with lemongrass and chilli emitted beautiful fragrant aromas across the table. With a smile on her face I could see it was just what she needed.
I have some friends that can be overwhelmed by the amount of food I have a tendency to order in restaurants but thankfully Michelle is not one of them and like me she always has room for dessert. We shared the Leatherwood honey pannacotta served with blood orange lychee granita and tangy mandarin sherbet. I absolutely loved the added surprise of pop rocks, really I am just a big kid at heart.
As we both walked back to our cars I was gobsmacked to see how late it has become. Neither of us had stopped to take a breath for hours, with both of us alternating between talking at one hundred miles an hour and stuffing our faces. I love that we are always on the same page and I am certain it won’t be long before we do it again!Three Five Three 353 Cambridge Street, Wembley WA 6014 | (08) 9387 5252 | www.threefivethree.com.au
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.
As we sat down to order I cringed at the fact that our table had such a constellation of specific dietary requirements; one of us was gluten free, fructose friendly (me), one was a vegetarian (the Boy) and finally there was a gluten free vegetarian (my Bestie). As we seemingly pounded our friendly waitress with 101 questions she proved to be totally unflappable and remained generously accommodating despite having to do a couple of round trips to the kitchen to check on ingredient details for us.
I have a tendency to get a bit obsessed with certain food and popcorn is one of those. I have been known to devour a whole packet in one sitting and have loved that it has featured on the bar snack menu at The Precinct for some time. Theirs is strongly flavoured with rosemary and lemon pepper making it extremely addictive. To feed my addiction further, it is sold in take home bags enabling me to grab a roadie on my way out.
It is not often that fritters are gluten free but these were also vegan meaning we could all eat them. No animal was harmed in the making of these little crispy balls. Despite not containing any cheese or meat that would ordinarily make these delicious, the fritters were flavoursome with a crackly thin crumb and a piping hot soft centre.
It is unusual for me to have a small appetite and I guess this may be a reflection of the turmoil and stress in my life over recent weeks. Consequently I was happy to see the portion size for the Tasmanian salmon was fairly small. Accompanied by a fennel salad, confit tomatoes and a blob of rocket pesto it was just the light meal my wobbly stomach needed however in more jovial times I may have been left feeling a bit peckish. I prefer my salmon to be slightly rare and was dismayed to see this chunk was cooked all the way through. I consoled myself with the fact that at least the skin was brittle thin and crunchy.
Shannon has recently undergone a very successful diet and life style change that has enabled her to improve both her health and well-being immensely. Being so well behaved with her eating habits for so long she decided to treat herself and ordered herself the pork belly. The crackling was snippety snap hard and browned to a delicious honey colour. The flesh was somewhat tender but I think the portion size was a bit overwhelmingly large for someone who has been eating an abundance of healthiness of late. It was served with a potato puree and a pea, mint, apple and cabbage salad.
Earlier on this year I subjected the Boy to a six week Raw Food experiment. Instead of our usual vegetarian Meatless Monday, I turned it into a raw food and vegan version. I called it “The Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge”! Some of my dishes included raw noodles and every time I made them his eyes would light up with glee. He was elated to see that vegetable spaghetti featured on The Precinct’s menu for the evening. Julienned zucchini and carrot sat atop thick wedges of pumpkin with raisins tossed through for more sweetness. I had to fight him for a mouthful to taste.
The Bestie is also vegetarian and ordered the baked mushroom risotto with truffle oil. To add some greenery to her choice she also ordered some green beans.
Not wanting to end the evening with a savoury taste in our mouths, us girls agreed to share a gluten free brownie complete with ice cream. Whilst the brownie was gluten free, the ice cream was unfortunately not meaning Shannon got to enjoy the scoop all to herself. Our waiter ensured it was served separate from the brownie to avoid any contamination. It was a big wedge of a brownie and was more than ample for the three of us to share. I did find it a bit dry and wished I could enjoy some ice cream to wash it down.
The Boy ordered the ice cream sandwich. These are made in house and I love how they mark The Precinct logo on the top. It reminds me of years long gone by where they were one of my favourite after dinner treats. I used to walk down to our local deli with our flat mate and we would buy an ice cream each for ourselves and one for the Boy who always stayed at home. And if it wasn’t an ice cream sandwich, it was a hazelnut roll. Happy days!
The Precinct remains one of my favourite locals on the Vic Park strip. Their service is always bubbly and energetic, their wine list is interesting, and although their food won’t blow your mind it is still creative, fresh and ever changing. They are happy to accommodate for all the tricky dietary needs; be it vego, vegan, fructose friendly or gluten free.The Precinct 834 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 | (08) 9355 2880 | www.theprecinctvicpark.com.au/ Price: $$ (Entrees/snacks $7-19, Mains $22-29) Food: 3/5 (simple, interesting and fresh) Service: 3.5/5 (these guys are always so enthusiastic) Ambience: 3.5/5 (good to find somewhere without fluoro lights on the Vic Park strip) Drinks: 4.5/5 (great list, lots of European choices of wines and beers) Total: 14.5/20
I received a curious gift in the mail recently consisting of a bottle of fig infused balsamic vinegar. Attached to the bottle like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland was a little card inviting me to the launch of the Fig’s new winter menu at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Having never been to any of the Fig’s before the Boy and I set out on a cold blustery night with no expectations or presumptions. We were openly greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager on arrival and before long we had glasses of bubbles in hand to help set the jovial mood for the evening.
The Fig restaurants comprise of three beach-side venues; the Wild Fig in North Beach, the Pickled Fig in South Fremantle, and the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Whilst sharing similarities in their West Coast scenery, Jamie explained to us that each of their restaurants have been allowed to develop their own “personality” which is a reflection of both their head chef’s ideas and their local clientele’s needs. For the evening the three head chefs wanted to give us a feel for what their own Fig was all about. They in turn each selected an entrée, main and dessert for us to share giving a total of nine dishes to try.
The team had put a lot of thought into how they ran the night keeping the vibe very light hearted and casual while encouraging us to not be shy to give them our honest thoughts both good and bad. A thoughtful touch was the food photography table; a table with great overhead lighting to allow us to take quality pics of the meals without reaching across the table and getting in each other’s way. A big win for us bloggers, but realistically a win for them too as it maximises the appearance of their food on our blogs.
There was no problem adapting the meals on the menu to suit my gluten free and no onion requirement. For each dish Jamie carefully explained to me what adjustments if any were made. Whilst the olive bread looked tasty our gluten free alternative was reasonable and wasn’t too stodgy or crumbly as many gluten free breads can be.
The gluten free version of the tortellini consisted of soft scallops served in shellfish cappuccino sauce without the pasta. The scallops were of a small size but tender on the inside with a slight firmness to the outside. I winced as the boy popped the last one in his mouth as I had been eyeing it off for a few minutes for myself. I quietly consoled myself as there was still a lot of food to come!
The vegetarian entrée from the Wild Fig was by far my favourite starter; a hearty slab of crisp fried polenta served with an aubergine and tomato roulade along with dollops of sweet agro dolce puree. This dish was a little more difficult to share amongst us and I think I made have inadvertently taken more than my fair share. Oops.
Although crispy skinned barramundi may be considered a dish that lacks creativity it is a common fall-back choice for me that when done properly totally satisfies me. This fillet was buttery smooth with paper thin crunchy skin and the serving size was generous. The bed of chorizo, capsicum and orange reduction brought an element of excitement to this staple of mine and spritzed it up to make it a bit more interesting.
The Naked Fig’s main dish consisted of beef prepared two ways. A rich ruby-red wedge of sirloin crusted with pepper and rosemary served alongside a scrumptiously tearable uber-soft portion of blade steak. Having these two very alternate textures, flavours and presentations of meat made this meal a bit more on the lines of fine dining when compared to the fish.
The most outstanding dish of the evening was by far the Wild Fig’s duck main once again prepared two ways. A pan roasted duck breast paired with a confit duck and mushroom tart, creamy parsnip puree, some sautéed kale and a scattering of textured pistachio brittle. For my gluten free alternative they simply omitted the tart casing leaving the confit for us to still enjoy. I’m fairly sure this was the winner from all of us at our end of the table with the beef pulling in a narrow second.
Those of you who know me will be aware of my recent popcorn obsession. Following in the vein of my “all or nothing” personality I have been known to down a whole bag in one sitting before dinnertime. There have also been a number of emergency dashes to the shops in my lunch break. Maybe I’m suffering from a corn deficiency if that is possible. Thank goodness popcorn is gluten free, right? So obviously my favourite dessert for the evening had to be the popcorn pannacotta. I even subjected the pannacotta to the booby jiggle test to which it passed with flying colours. My only criticism, being the popcorn connoisseur, was that the popcorn pieces tasted a bit stale and chewy however the remainder of the dish was absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious.
As the white chocolate and raspberry mille-feuille was not gluten free, I didn’t get to taste it and therefore I am unable to personally comment on it but Perth Munchkin did say this was her pick of the bunch.
We all tap-tap-cracked the top of the mandarin and thyme crème brûlée to expose the custardy deliciousness underneath and although the hint of thyme was a fabulous combination with the sweet citrus the texture was very runny as the custard had failed to set properly. Thankfully this was at no sacrifice to flavour but this dish would have been near perfect if the texture was correct.
As we wrapped up the evening out of the kitchen came the three head chefs; Andy Walton from Pickled, Chris May from Naked and Rodrigo da Rocha from Wild. They were all smiles and took the time to tell us what inspired each of them to create their own menus. I love hearing passionate people talk about what they love and I could see each of these men still maintained their love for what they do.
Having read a mixed bag of reviews on all of the Fig’s, I have to say after our pleasant evening I’m inspired to go back and check them out on a night when they don’t know I’m food blogger. If our wonderful meal is anything to go by I’m fairly certain it will be an awesome experience….watch this space!Chompchomp was a guest of the Naked Fig. As a result I will not give a score on this dining experience as it is too hard to be 100% subjective when the meal is openly complementary. When I return incognito, I may give a score then.