This week is the final week for Eat Drink Perth festivities and for my last official EDP hurrah I attended the “South of France” dinner at Blackbird Restaurant in East Perth. Blackbird is a quaint little place tucked away in the corner nook of Claisebrook Cove facing out onto the water. Their focus is on serving traditional rustic European dishes and they have an interesting wine list with a collection of both local and International wines.
The South of France Dinner includes a three course meal accompanied by a bottle of French wine to share for the very reasonable price of $55 per person. I notified the kitchen staff in advance of my gluten free dietary needs and found then to be more than happy to accommodate.
Our entrée consisted of a share plate with three traditional Southern French dishes; a mushroom truffle dip with fresh baguette, pissaladière and salad Nicoise. I am always so grateful that there are many restaurants in Perth that now offer gluten free bread. I accept that these offerings will often be stodgy and, well, gluten free-ish but beggars can’t be choosers they say! I’m just happy to be considered. However for this evening, to my delight, our waiter served our entrée plate accompanied with some gluten free baguette!
Crunchy on the outside, and soft and light on the inside, it actually tasted like real baguette! With Perth’s truffle season creeping up close, I am getting to desperate levels of anticipation for a three month truffle binge. Just a single smear of truffilicious dip on my gluten free baguette was enough to make my eyes beam wide and I started to bounce up and down in my seat with excitement like a child.
Pissaladière is a bit like a French alternative to pizza that is often served in bakeries in Nice on the southern coast of France. It consists of a thick dough topped with caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies. My pissaladiere was adapted by replacing the base with gluten free baguette. Containing caramelised onion meant that this wasn’t exactly a fructose friendly morsel, but sometimes I find it hard to say no to such deliciousness. Although I knew I was going to suffer a bit from onion bloating later on, I temporarily cast aside my worries and got lost in the moment enjoying my gluten free treat.
The final dish on the share plate was a salad Nicoise with green beans, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, chat potatoes and tuna aioli. The tuna aioli was creamy, rich and packed a powerful flavour kick to the more gentle fresh ingredients.
For the main course there was a choice of two dishes which were also designed to share. The options were either Coq au vin Blanc with Provençale rice, or, Bouillabaisse. My stepmum makes a killer version of both these dishes so it was a hard call to pick which one to order. After some careful deliberation we chose the bouillabaisse.
It was a wise choice. Chunky fillets of Red Emperor were cooked to a flaky perfection and joined cockles and prawns to bath in a bright and heart-warming broth. There was a slight chill in the night air and each mouthful of soup helped warm my bones.
Our dessert required only a slight adaptation to be gluten free with the standard dish consisting of little bite size tart aux pomme, or apple tarts with some fresh stone fruits and brandy cream. The chef made me a gluten free tart by fashioning a shell using a chunk of walnut cake.
Our midweek South of France dinner was one that we arrived with no expectations and walked away more than contented and satisfied.
Growing up with a patriotic French-born father resulted in French cuisine forming a considerable part of my childhood. My Dad grew up in the south of France and so food from this region is something I was taught to know well from a young age. Getting to enjoy some of these classic dishes at Blackbird brought back fond memories of my younger years and it was definitely a weeknight worth leaving the house for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s meal was paid for by the City of Perth as part of her official blogging duties for Eat Drink Perth 2015.
10 Eastbrook Terrace, overlooking Claisebrook Lake, East Perth, WA 6004 | (08) 9225 7880 | blackbirdrestaurant.com.au
East Drink Perth Offer South of France Dinner: $55 per person for two people, three course with a bottle of French wine
It is my dream to be a cat vet, not just any ordinary vet, but one that just deals with cats. So when a locum job came up at the Hobart Cat Clinic I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get a fortnight of feline exclusivity, but I would get to visit one of the most beautiful parts of our country; Tasmania. For the first week I was solo as the Boy was only flying over for the second week. As is often the case when I’m on my own, I find myself gravitating toward food as my comfort. To my delight I found out that Hobart loves night markets too.
Hobart Twilight Markets runs fortnightly from October through to March every year in the coastal suburb of Sandy Bay. Fortunately for me this was directly on route home from work and so I thought I would just drop in and check it out. Along with most of Hobart it seemed. Parking was a challenge and after driving around for nearly half an hour I manage to find a somewhat legal park on a verge.
Finding gluten free options wasn’t exactly easy as there were large queues at every food stall and I had to line up just to be able to ask as there weren’t any indications made on their chalkboard menus. Needless to say what I did try was worth the wait. Hobart Oyster House’s freshly shucked oysters were out of this world and came in a number of size options. A simple dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon and I was in heaven.
After slurping my way through a half dozen oysters, I checked out what the Vietnamese stall from Chikko Café had to offer. They were serving a number of fresh Banh Mi which were selling like hot cakes in addition to some prawn rice paper rolls. They were happy to serve my rolls without the hoisin sauce and replaced it with a gluten free sweet chilli sauce instead.
The vegetarian stall Makan Lagi had a number of international dishes available including some gluten free inari filled with vegetarian contents.
My favourite snack of the evening was Pav-Lova’s amazing single serve Pavlovas. All gluten free friendly with flavours like brown sugar and lime, lemon and coconut and espresso it was very hard to choose which one to try. Times like these I really miss the Boy as I know his presence means I can order two! I eventually settled for the brown sugar and lime.
It had all the right elements of pavlova textures, an air-light crisp shell with a centre of softer mallow. The crystallised lime gave a mouthwatering tang to cut through all the sweetness. I didn’t think I would finish it all, but before I knew it the whole pav was gone.
Satisfied with a full belly I found my way back to the car to return to my house sit companion, Ozi the Cornish Rex. He is such a lovely old man who loves the simple things in life, sunshine, cuddles and smoked salmon 😉
Hobart Twilight Markets | Facebook
17 Sandy Beach Road, Sandy Bay, Tasmania 7005
Every second Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm, October to March.
I have always had a very keen interest to try Malaysian cuisine but the fear of accidentally eating gluten has frightened me off. I learnt this the hard way on our trip to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year where I was quite restricted in what I could eat and despite being very careful I ended up getting sick from eating something with gluten in it.
Many moons ago I perused RIA Malay Kitchen’s menu online and found that they are one of the rare Asian restaurants in Perth that not only can accommodate for gluten free but have dishes specifically marked on their menu. Consequently I have wanted to visit this Leederville restaurant for quite some time. Knowing in advance what I can eat makes life so much easier, for those with food allergies you learn quickly that doing your research prior to choosing a restaurant is so important.
RIA have recently renovated and expanded their popular restaurant with a revamped menu including old favourites alongside some new additions. Chef Jon Hizola’s style is based on authentic home style Malaysian cooking and with RIA being an allergy friendly venue, they were keen to invite me come along and try some of their dishes.
The word “ria” can be translated from Malay to mean happy or jolly and I could see that the staff working both front of house and in the kitchen seemed to apply this to their daily work. We were greeted with warm smiles and although my booking was late in the afternoon at a strange time of day to eat there were still a number of customers dotted about the restaurant.
RIA offers still or sparking water free of charge which I thought was a lovely touch but I was in the mood for something a bit more exciting. They have a small cocktail menu with some interesting options. I started off with the mandarin sour; slightly sweet with a hint of sour this was the type of beverage I could down way too easily while sitting by the pool on a hot summer’s day.
The menu doesn’t just cater for those with gluten sensitivity but also has options for dairy free and nut free meals. It felt like such a luxury to be able to just choose dishes straight off a menu without my waitress having to go to and fro from the kitchen. As an extra precaution, I always ask for it to be written on our order slip that I’m coeliac just to reinforce to the chef to avoid cross contamination.
We started with a couple of small plates off the entrée menu; the lotus chips and the crispy prawns. Both were served with a mild spicy homemade mayo. The Boy hadn’t tried lotus root chips before and crunched through them nearly as quickly as he would a packet of corn chips. Along with ice cream, corn chips is another one of the Boy’s weaknesses.
The prawns were one of my favourite dishes and were so flavoursome. Cooked in a gluten free batter with a thin crispy outside and crunchy middle, you could taste the freshness of these critters. They were topped with some fried garlic and chilli which added another punch of flavour. You wouldn’t want to be on a first date after eating these!
It was hard to just choose two curries for us to share as there were quite a few gluten free options. I toyed with the idea of ordering three which the Boy also thought was a good idea but our waitress raised her eyebrows at us and explained that we would want to be extremely hungry! I settled for just two but ordered some pilau rice to help mop up all the sauces.
My first choice was the seafood tamarind. I fell in love with tamarind in my travels through Thailand, the tangy flavours always go so well with delicate seafood. It was a generous serve and the seafood was super fresh with the fish fillets so tender they tumbled apart under my fork.
For our second curry I chose the Nyonya chicken curry as I wanted to try something authentic. RIA uses a traditional recipe that has been handed down from the Chef’s mother for generations. The curry is gently spiced with turmeric, chilli and cinnamon and then cooked with coconut milk.
Now I am not of Malaysian descent so I can never confess to being an expert on Nyonya cuisine, but I have certainly eaten a lot of curries and I know what makes a beautiful curry and what makes one fall short. A good curry to my western tastebuds, is one that has an individual and defined flavour with wonderful layers of complexity from the careful addition of spices, coupled with slow judicious cooking. Too many times have I been out for curry, ordered a bunch and they all just taste the same!
Our Nyonya curry had all the makings of a brilliant curry such that we polished off the lot despite feeling uncomfortably full by the half way mark. In hindsight, we really did eat too much (again) and that is saying something as we both have bottomless pits for stomachs.
Dessert was a childhood favourite of mine, sago pudding or, sago melaka. My mum used to make this for us when we were kids and I always loved the sensation of squishing the little tiny soft pearls of sago between my teeth. Our saga melaka was served with fresh apple which is not fructose friendly so I let the Boy eat the fruit off the top before we tucked in together.
For someone who is gluten free, I usually don’t even consider dining in Asian restaurants as the chance of a suitable meal can be near on impossible. The only exceptions I have found is Vietnamese, Thai and Indian cuisines as they do not use soy sauce or much wheat flour. The discovery that Ria Malay Kitchen is so accommodating for those on a gluten free diet is quite a liberating find and I will definitely be returning.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Ria Malay Kitchen however my views and opinions are my own. Ria Malay Kitchen 106 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9328 2998 | riamalaykitchen.com.au
As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Within minutes of arriving at Saint Crispin, the four of us agreed on the tasting menu choosing the five courses for $100. A bargain by Perth price standards I have to say. To commence the gastronomic journey, our amuse bouche for the evening were cute fluffy green olive and cocoa nib Madeleines. They were served with a slightly sweet, smoked hay foam with dehydrated black olive grated on top.
Our first course was presented immaculately; a lightly seared chunk of yellowfin tuna still dark pink in the centre which dissolved on contact with my tongue. It was served with some anise braised fennel, mussels and poached calamari.
Perched on top of the tuna was a snap-crackle-and-pop squid ink and tapioca cracker. A carefully placed dollop of rocket emulsion added a subtle pepperiness to balance the flavours.
Fresh seasonal ingredients continued to feature heavily on the menu with our next dish focusing on new season asparagus. With some asparagus blanched and some shaved raw they were dressed in an asparagus gazpacho and served with an unusual roasted parmesan custard. The custard was as smooth as silk and contained flaked almonds for added crunch.
As each dish was as delicately perfect as the next, I could feel a sense of warm pride across the table. Some of them follow the blog and know very well that I enjoy eating damn fine food! Seeing me impressed and highly satisfied with our meal so far meant their delegated job of choosing a restaurant was a job well done.
Our third course was the Atlantic salmon served with a parsley risotto. The salmon was cooked sous-vide giving it a wondrous buttery texture. Fresh spring vegetables including zucchini, broad beans and peas mixed into the creamy risotto along with some fresh prawns.
Unlike many of my blogging foodie friends, I am not really a pork lover. Whilst I would never refuse food that I wasn’t allergic to, I would never actively chose to order pork for myself off the menu. Additionally I feel it needs to be jaw-droppingly amazing for me to enjoy it to any large degree.
For our fourth course, we were served a crispy pork jowl with miso marinated cubes of pork neck. Was this going to be a hit or a miss for this ambivalent pork eater? Well a winner it was, such to the point that I even offered to finish off the tooth-chipping crackling from my friend sitting next to me. I shared it with the others of course 😉
The pork accompanied an heirloom carrot salad with star anise and finished with a white soy and sesame gel. It was absolutely heavenly.
I didn’t want the magic to end but as each course was a reasonably substantial size for a tasting menu I was starting running out of room. Our dessert was the perfect finisher.
Smooth mango creamoux was served with small chunks of diced mango, caramelised milk crumble yoghurt pebbles and a scoop of jasmine ice cream. With all that mango, this was not exactly a fructose friendly dessert but I was prepared with glucose tablets that I chugged back on the drive back to Dad’s apartment. Some things are worth a belly ache for and this was one of them.
We ended the night with some house made passionfruit jubes. A little bit salty and a little bit sour, I wasn’t expecting such a flavour punch from these innocent little cubes.
Saint Crispin is a class act, following all the principles in modern dining that I love. Lots of small tasting dishes, fresh seasonal and local produce, and photogenic food presentation. To add to all this, the staff were relaxed and knowledgeable without any pretension. If only it wasn’t so far from Perth!Disclaimer: Despite Chompchomp carrying the flag for the cats of Australia, her own two feline fur-children are yet to earn their keep and help fund her valiant efforts to improve the health and welfare of cats. Consequently this meal was funded for by herself but she has been assured it is only a matter of time before the two lads start bringing home the cash. In fact, her youngest fur-son Eddie has already been attaining some cameo appearances on Channel 7! 😉
300 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC 3066 | (03) 9419 2202 | www.saintcrispin.com.au
If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
My last Red Hot Spatula class that I attended was about a year ago before she had her own kitchen to work in. I haven’t had the chance to attend one of her classes since, so when she kindly invited me and a guest to her Singapore Hawkers Food cooking class it was an offer that was too good to refuse. I invited Colleen who is one of my close friends from work to join me. Her parents lived in Singapore for years and she is a big fan of Hawkers food.
The classes are conducted in small group sessions of no more than ten people. I recommend that you make sure to arrive with a big appetite as you will leave the cooking class feeling very full. For our Singapore hawkers food cooking class Yvonne and her mum demonstrated to us how to prepare five different dishes which were served up over the course of the evening. Our first course was grilled crisp tofu pockets (Tahu Bakar) with Rojak sauce.
To prepare these the tofu puffs are cut in half and grilled over hot pan before being stuffed with a flavoursome filling made from roasted shrimp paste, chilli and tamarind along with some fresh bean sprouts, cucumber and then topped with roasted peanuts. These tasty morsels didn’t last long!
Our second course was Ngoh Hiang, which I can basically describe as kind of a Hawkers version of a sausage roll, but much tastier! The meat stuffing is made from minced pork belly, dried shrimps, coarsely chopped prawns, water chestnuts, carrot and soy.
The stuffing is wrapped in bean curd skin before being steamed and then deep fried. It was mesmerizing to see how neatly Yvonne’s mother could wrap each roll in succession with every roll matching the exact size of that before it.
Our next course was one of my favourite South-east Asian street foods, otak otak. It is a snack that I know will always be gluten free and tastes amazing. For those not in the know, otak otak are a type of fish cake which wrapped in banana leaves and baked.
They are made using blended white fish combined with egg white, rice flour, coconut cream and a variety of spices including turmeric, candlenuts, kaffir lime, lemongrass, garlic, belacan (dried shrimp paste) and chilli.
Having successfully worked our way through three entrées it was time to move onto our main course, Rochor mee or fried Hokkien prawn noodles. Being mindful of the risk of contamination with gluten for cooking Yvonne was very kind to make up a gluten free batch of noodles for me first by omitting the wheat noodles before going onto cook the more traditional style for the remaining guests.
I always thought noodles were just a quick, almost lazy dish made with a bunch of ingredients all thrown into a wok with a dash of soy and a splish of fish sauce. Maybe that’s why I was never really a big noodle eater. But these noodles were out of this world! I found out that the secret trick that makes these noodles so incredibly delicious was that they were cooked in a homemade prawn stock.
Yvonne showed us how to prepare the stock before cooking up a big batch of noodles for the gluten eaters with both the rice noodles and the wheat noodles. She also tossed in bean sprouts, fish cake, fresh prawns, squid rings and pork belly. Despite serving up a huge plate, everyone managed to eat every last morsel.
Despite groans around the table of fullness followed by a lot of belly patting, it didn’t take long for us to find some room for our final course, little bite size sweets called Ondeh ondeh. These are made from pandan flavoured glutinous rice flour and filled with liquid palm sugar which bursts into your mouth when you bite into them. Despite having already eaten so much, there were hard to resist.
As the night drew to an end I was thankful I had only eaten a small lunch as we had certainly worked our way through a lot of food. I was amazed at how easy it was to prepare Hawkers food gluten free. Each class participate received a full list of recipes from all the dishes so Colleen and I promised to each other that our next catch up will have to be trialling these recipes out for ourselves!Disclaimer: Chompchomp and her companion Colleen were invited guests of Red Hot Spatula. Red Hot Spatula Cooking Classes Unit 5/5 Toodyay Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | www.redhotspatula.com.au
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
Twelve months ago Kate returned to her home-town of Esperance to complete her yoga teacher training with the aim to open her own yoga studio specialising in kid’s yoga. I envisaged this to be a slow process and was so surprised and excited to hear that less than a year after she moved away her studio was ready to be opened. I am so proud of her determination to make this long-term dream a reality and upon hearing the brilliant news I promptly booked some last minute flights to zip down and spend the weekend with her.
We booked accommodation at the Esperance Island View apartments which is located on the Esplanade and is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Our two bedroom apartment had two storeys with a large kitchen and living area, and most importantly excellent heating. This is something I have learnt to appreciate after our recent stay in Pemberton for Truffle Kerfuffle at an unnamed chalet location that had no heating other than a pot belly stove!
For our first night together we walked down to the Pier Hotel, a massive pub with separate bistro and bar areas, a cocktail lounge and the only night club in town. We sat down in the toasty bistro area by the open fire and made ourselves quite cosy.
The bistro menu has gluten free items clearly marked on the menu and most of the salad bar was also gluten free. Our waitress was kind enough to double check everything for me which was a thoughtful gesture. We each started off with a serve of drunken oysters. Served three ways, the oysters were surprisingly fresh and salty.
My favourite oyster of the three was the tequila shot which was served with a generous splash of tomato juice. The Jack Daniels Kilpatrick oyster was everyone’s least favourite. I found the bacon to be dry and flavourless with a barely discernible taste of bourbon. Not such a bad thing as I don’t particularly like bourbon.
My choice for main course was the Thai style barramundi, a grilled barra fillet cooked in curry sauce with basil, chilli and coconut cream. It is normally served with a pistachio and capsicum couscous but the gluten free option offers chips or mash as a replacement. Whilst it was quite an unsightly dish, the fish was cooked beautifully and the curry sauce was not overpowering. It would have been better paired with some steamed rice instead of mash.
With a day and a half to explore, we saw only a brief snippet of Esperance and its surrounds yet what I did see left me blown away by this remote town’s rugged beauty. Imagine long stretches of beaches with the whitest sand in Australia where the water is so vividly blue it almost doesn’t look real. It was breathtaking. One of the most special moments we shared was seeing a mother whale and her calf in the bay at Hellfire beach. Every time a tail fin would gracefully plunge out of the water both of us couldn’t hold back emitting loud sighs of amazement. I regretted not bringing my zoom lens with me!
Being in the middle of winter, Esperance’s weather can be unpredictable and can turn from clear blue skies to thundering storms quicker than I expected. After walking the Rotary Lookout circuit walk on Wireless Hill, we stopped to catch our breath in a little gazebo and watched a storm coming in over the coast for just long enough to avoid getting wet. Once the rain hit, we journeyed back into town for an afternoon snack at Taylors Beach café before popping into see her parents.
Taylors Beach café is situated overlooking the Bay of Isles and has been a local icon for many years. They have live music on Sunday afternoons and are open seven days. We only wanted a light snack to go with our drinks as we were heading out for dinner later that evening.
We started off with some French bubbles which is something of a tradition for the two of us. We have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money that we don’t really have on bottles of exquisite French champagne so I figured we needed to keep on with our tradition to some degree; even if Grandin isn’t strictly Champagne it is French! 😉
Taylors have a small bites menu however unfortunately I was sternly informed that there was only one dish that could be served gluten free; the grilled scallops. There were six scallops served in the shell lightly grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
I made the error of eating some of the garnish in the middle of the dish which left a mouldy flavour in my mouth, ruining any further enjoyment of the scallops. The Boy and Kate took heed and avoided eating any greens meaning their scallop experience was much more enjoyable.
Fuelled with the warmth of a round of drinks, we visited her parents for a brief lesson on clipping cat’s claws. Betty Lois and Doris are ex-farm cats who are affectionately known collectively as The Girls. They were on their best behaviour which made for short work of my vet consult allowing us to celebrate with another round of drinks before heading out on the town to the Loose Goose for dinner.
The Loose Goose is one of the fine dining options in town and offers set dinner prices of $45.50 for one course, $57.50 for two courses and $67.50 for three courses. This price includes complimentary herb or garlic bread and a side salad or vegetables with the main meals. They did not have any gluten free bread on offer.
In our usual celebratory mode, we all chose to enjoy three courses. It is not often that we get to dine out together and the logical approach was to make the most of it. The Boy’s starter was a thick slab of Camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown. A rather inelegant blob of mild chilli plum sauce accompanied the cheese adding a touch of fruity sweetness. This wasn’t a type of dish I ever expected him to order, in fact I cannot recall the last time I saw him order ANYTHING in puff pastry. However if his moans of delight were anything to go by, I can see he will likely order this again given the chance!
Kate ordered the sweet potato salad served warm with marinated mushrooms, French cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas. It was a vegetarian’s feast and I couldn’t help myself from reaching across and nabbing a slice of soft creamy sweet potato.
I ordered the half dozen fresh natural oysters which I was hoping were obtained locally from WA but unfortunately I was told they were imported from South Australia. Regardless of the greater distance they travelled to reach my plate each oyster gave me a mouthful of fresh seawater without any unpleasant fishy after-taste.
The Boy was on a roll with this pastry fetish as his main course was also wrapped in puff pastry. His dish was titled “real barramundi” and consisted of a thick fillet of barramundi cooked with prawns and garlic butter and then wrapped in pastry.
His fish came with a potato gallete and more lashings of creamy garlic sauce. No vampires came near us that night!
Kate wasn’t too impressed with the main dish choices as she is not really much of a meat eater so she requested for the chilli squid entrée to be served as a main size. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige. Her chilli squid was served in a Greek style cooked with tomato, capsicum and a hint of chilli. It was topped with some crumbled feta and black olives. She paired it with brilliant emerald green choc-mint cocktail made with Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Midori. We downed a few of those together that night!
I ordered the special of the day; the King Snapper Tom Yum. Having travelled a reasonable amount in Thailand, this clear, sweet and sour soup is one of my Thai favourites and I was counting on flashbacks of our time in the tropical sunshine. I certainly wasn’t expecting the dish I received which was more like a red fish curry than a Tom Yum. The sauce was a more modern interpretation made using coconut cream and was served with rice, like a curry. After my initial surprise, I actually didn’t mind it at all. For a curry, it was richly flavoured with all the layering of tastes that a well-made Thai dish should have. The fish was softly cooked and flaked apart gracefully and I was close to licking the bowl clean by the end.
As we arrived at dessert time, I was grateful for having a second stomach as I was totally stuffed. Whenever the three of us are out together, Kate and I will often try and guess what the Boy will order. He will then try to meet our suggestions with an air of total mystery and nonchalance. We are renowned for usually getting it right and simultaneously chanted that he would choose the Death by Chocolate. After a few minutes of playing coy and pretending we were completely wrong our waitress came up to take our order and lo and behold; he orders the Death by Chocolate. It was a rich doorstop-sized block of chocolate cake served warm and drizzled with oozing chocolicious ganache.
Both of us girls ordered the dessert special; the Loose Goose chocolate pot. Despite asking for gluten free, mine was initially served with some chocolate biscuit crumbled on top. Thankfully the Boy pointed this out to me before I had finished taking my photos and I avoided getting gluten poisoning.
Our waitress was extremely apologetic and promptly swapped it over for me. The chocolate pot was a huge serve of which neither of us needed to finish it all. Of course we both did polish off the lot which made our dancing attempts later on at the Pier nightclub not exactly easy!
The following morning we gathered ourselves together for a refreshing coastal walk. There is a walking track along most of the town’s coastline with gentle undulating hills and some of the most breathtaking views of the beaches. If I hadn’t binged so much the night before it would have made a fabulous running track to burn off those excess calories.
Sadly our weekend had nearly drawn to an end so before we headed back to the airport, Kate took us for a drive to Monjingup Lake Nature Reserve. She is a master at pleasing everyone and given I had already had a fulfilling foodie weekend, she wanted to take us somewhere that she knew the Boy would love.
The reserve has a well maintained boardwalk which takes you right out onto the lake giving gorgeous views of the reflections of the trees on the water.
There was an abundance of bird life that the Boy spotted with great ease; wildlife watching is something of a talent of his and he takes great pleasure in being the first to spot any signs of life. Once again I regretted not travelling with the appropriate camera lens!
While the Boy wandered off ahead in search of birds and frogs, my Bestie and I took our time to treasure our last hour together.
Whilst it had been a whirlwind trip this is something the two of us have grown accustomed to over the years. Previously we would both end up being shattered by the end of our rushed catch up due to our desperate attempts at making the most of our time by indulging in all the excesses.
Nearly decades later, our best-friendship has reached a point where we know we have each other for support no matter where we live and what we are doing. Our times together are becoming much more cherished and the influence of her yoga practice on living a healthy life is having a positive impact on both of us. It is a beautiful point in our lives to be.
Despite being all “zen” about my best friend living so far away, as I watched her leave us at the Esperance airport, I shed more than just a few tears. 😥To the bestest bestie; we had such a fabulous weekend with you in your hometown of Esperance. Let’s hope the time until we meet again is short. Whaa-toot!
Chompchomp travelled to Esperance on her own budget purely just to be with her bestie. She is confident that no one in town knew of her blog’s existence and was happy to be completely incognito. Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Esperance Western Australia 6450 | (08) 9071 1777 | www.pierhotelesperance.net.au www.taylorsbeachcafe.com.au loosegooseesperance.com.au
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
There are two components that I need in order to happily publish a blog post about a restaurant; I need pretty photos and I need an interesting story. If either of those are lacking then it doesn’t matter how good the experience was I just cannot bring myself to publish it. Call it pride, vanity, perfectionism, whatever it is I cannot control it. My first visit to La Cholita, a Mexican bar in Northbridge presented me with this exact problem.
It was a great night out with fellow blogger Foodie Cravings which had originally started off with plans for us to attend an Eat Drink Perth movie event. However on arrival we found out there was no gluten free fare available so our evening evolved into an impromptu night of tacos, tostadas and wine at La Cholita. We laughed, shared stories and ate until we nearly popped; something that isn’t exactly unusual for the two of us. The next day I looked back on my photos and my heart sunk. They were all total crap!!!
Determined not to be beaten by bad lighting, over the following weeks I tried to encourage the Boy to join me on a return visit to La Cholita to acquire the focused, colourful captures of this venue’s food that I needed. Our first two attempts were stalled due to illness and family obligations until finally on a weekend where we had no plans I locked in a lunch date days in advance. Unbeknownst to me, the lovely weather man also locked some plans, his were for a severe weather warning. Awesome. Refusing to be beaten again, we headed into Northbridge hitting William Street at exactly the same time as the downpour.
I reached across to the back seat of my car to grab my umbrella only to realise I had moved it into the car boot. I quickly jumped out of the car splashing through the riverine that was once the street gutter to peer into my empty boot. Argh! No umbrella in there either! By this point I was soaked through. Admitting defeat I ran to the parking meter grabbed a ticket and sprinted with the Boy down the street to arrive at La Cholita resembling a drowned rat.
I already knew what to order having had a feast there only weeks before. Most of their menu is gluten free excluding the quesadillas, the fish and jalapeño tacos and the flour tortillas. The guacamole can be served gluten free if you request the crispy corn tortillas instead.
A word of warning to the fructose malabsorbers out there, there was onion in many of the dishes on the menu. I decided to live with the consequences as my reaction to onion isn’t serious like that with gluten. I figure eating a little bit here and there on occasions is hardly going to kill me as I am so strict in avoiding it at home.
I ordered a selection of four tacos which included vegetarian, prawn, beef cheek and slow cooked pork. The Boy’s vego option contained some spiced pumpkin, pickled cabbage and queso fresco. The tacos were soft and fresh making them easy to eat without falling apart.
The Boy will sometimes eat seafood so given there was only one vegetarian taco on offer, he ate the prawn taco for his second option. Two crunchy grilled prawns topped with some papaya salad, avocado and finely chopped cos lettuce made this a light option for those not wanting to eat the more heavy meatier choices.
I ate the remaining two tacos; the beef cheek and the slow cooked pork. Surprisingly the pork was my favourite as I am not the hugest fan of eating pig. Soft shreds of pork filled the taco to the brim topped with a single grilled piece of pineapple which had been cooked just long enough for the sugars to caramelise on the surface.
We also ordered some tostadas which are basically crispy corn chips with toppings. The spiced duck with refried beans had a decent amount of heat in it which was just what I needed to defrost my soaked, cold bones however the Boy found it too spicy for his tastebuds. He preferred the creamy crab with avocado although he did comment that the crab did not have a lot of flavour.
There was a break in the rain so knowing La Cholita’s gluten free dessert options were limited we quickly paid and marched down to James Street where I knew there was a Taiwanese dessert place called Meet Fresh. This place is very popular over in Sydney and this was our first store that had opened in WA. It was the late afternoon and we were the only customers.
On my recommendation the Boy ordered the high tower of supreme mango crushed ice with vanilla ice cream. It contained a decent portion of fresh mango cascading over the syrupy sweet mountain of ice.
Unlike the Boy, I am a big lover of Taiwanese style desserts however I am a little bit inexperienced in that I never really know what I can order. I always have to double check then triple check what is gluten free. I ended up choosing the herbal jelly with taro, red beans and tapioca pearls. The pearls were chewy and sweet but I found the herbal jelly a bit flavourless compared to that I had at Taro Taro.
Knowing the next downpour wasn’t far away the Boy put his spoon down defeated by his mango mountain and suggested we head back to the car before we get drenched through again. My dessert was significantly smaller than his and so I had pretty much finished it. I happily agreed and gathered my things. As soon as we piled into the car the heavens opened. It was our first bit of good timing that day and I can say it was greatly appreciated!Chompchomp’s meal at La Cholita was a self funded taco feast paid for with soaking wet notes pulled from her drenched jeans pocket. La Cholita 279 William Street, Northbridge, WA 6003 | Facebook $$ (Small plates $5-15, Mains $26-28) www.meetfresh.net Taiwanese desserts $5-10 each
Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
Luckily there are a number of more accessible restaurants owned by the same group within walking distance albeit neither are headed by the acclaimed Chef Adria.
I consoled myself knowing at least I would be able to visit both of these other locations called Casa de Tapas and Rias de Galicia. I was so thankful that my newly made friends that I had met at the vet conference were also keen foodies and were more than happy to oblige my needs. I loved Casa’s quirky menu which came presented as a children’s book complete with wacky cartoons.
We ordered a bunch of tapas dishes to share, many of which were naturally gluten free and thus not requiring any adaptation. Within the first few days of arriving in Spain I had learnt to politely request to the wait staff “Sin gluten per favor?” voiced in my poorly pronounced Spanish. These seemed to be the magic words needed to help reveal my gluten free options. It amazed me that how no matter where we stopped to eat in Barcelona, everything tasted so damn good! Casa de Tapas’s marinated olives contained a mix of four different types including gordal sevillana, caspe, verdial and kalamata.
A simple dish that I grew to love in my time in Spain was “escalivada”, or smoked roasted vegetables. Soft strips of capsicum and eggplant were lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil making them as delicate as butter. This dish would have been even more amazing cast on top of some crusty bread. Sadly the only place I found gluten free bread in Barcelona was back at my hotel.
My friends each ordered themselves a “fried box of things” as it was described on the menu. Each wooden box contained a variety of crispy fried pieces of seafood including school prawns, calamari and octopus. It smelt absolutely amazing and made me quickly reach over for the menu to order myself some more food as I started to salivate.
With each dish we ate, Casa de Tapas reinforced the concept that you don’t need to use lots of fancy ingredients to make food taste amazing. All you require are fresh ingredients prepared with love. Dishes as simple as flash fried green peppers and poached prawns needed nothing extra for flavour other than a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Of course a meal in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without a serve of “pulpo”. There is nothing quite like Spanish octopus, it takes on a texture I rarely find replicated back home in Perth. It is so soft and nearly creamy, with no chewiness and is dusted with paprika and spices. This dish was served on top of slices of boiled potato that mashed easily under my fork. I smeared the potato over the spicy octopus sections and happily gobbled it up.
Casa de Tapas offer simple traditional Galician styled tapas without breaking the bank. I was very appreciative that they were so helpful with selecting gluten free tapas dishes for me. We found the service to be quick and friendly and would have been happy to return again and again if it wasn’t for my lengthy bucket list!Casa de Tapas Cañota Calle Lleida 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain | 93 325 9171 | casadetapas.com Chompchomp’s Barcelona trip in July 2013 was partly funded for by her place of work as part of her continuing education fund. She had to foot the food bill for the week herself however despite eating the most absurd amount of food she found it to cost much less than an equivalent amount of feasting in her home-town of Perth, Australia.
Over recent weeks I have been providing you with insider coverage of the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best; a government initiative to help promote eating locally grown and made produce. I was appointed as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and travelled up to Carnarvon to attend the regional final.
The three other participating regions were Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests and the Great Southern. Each region’s finalist received one-on-one mentoring by their delegated chef to help prepare them for the Grand Finale held at the Perth Cultural Centre on WA Day. On the big day, the Cultural Centre was alive with activity with much to see and do for people of all ages.
The WA Day event was a free event and the Buy West Eat Best tent was packed full of stalls offering tastings of all sorts of local deliciousnesses including banana smoothies, gelato, oils, condiments and best of all, gluten free lupin flour chocolate cake. I was joined by two of my dear friends Foodie Cravings and Perth Munchkin who were also attending as official bloggers representing Perth and the Great Southern.
Each contestant had ninety minutes to prepare their dish from scratch using a variety of ingredients sourced from their region. Rhiannon Birch was competing for the Perth and Surrounds region and her dish was Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours. Much to my approval her dish is entirely gluten free.
Clare King’s dish came from the Great Southern region titled “A Celebration of Beef in Thai style” and was made using a luscious Butterfield beef fillet topped with pearls of Pemberton Finger Limes.
Many of you have already been following on the blog the story of Paul Kelly, the contestant for the Gascoyne region with his Gascoyne tasting plate. This colourful plate included Shark Bay wild King prawns with salsa verde, plantation vegetable gazpacho with Abacus crab sticks, Shark Bay snapper ceviche and some simple pan-fried Shark Bay Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled Gascoyne vegetables.
Competing for the Southern Forests region, the softly spoken Alana Starkie prepared some stunning fresh Southern Forest marron with a Pink Lady apple, avocado and lime salsa. To make the competition even more challenging, throughout the entire cook off the four contestants were individually interviewed by both their chef and the hosts Anna Gare and Don Hancey. I was surprised how well they all kept their cool under pressure and kept their focus on cooking!
The final decision for the winning dish was made by the panel of high profile judges; Guillaume Brahimi, Ralf Vogt and Rob Broadfield. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the packed marquee as each judge carefully tasted the four dishes.
Whilst the quality and standard of each dish was high, there can only ever be one winner and this year the winner was Rhiannon Birch for her Perth dish of Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours.
For the recipes for all the contestants dishes head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.
The Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Finale was a free event held on the 2nd of June 2014 at the Perth Cultural Centre. I would like to thank buy West Eat Best and all the team at Clarity Communications for allowing me to be part of this fabulous WA Signature Dish experience. Also thanks to Paul Kelly and Chef Peter Manifis for putting in such an incredible effort for the Gascoyne region. Fingers crossed for a win next year!
After a long drive through the pouring rain it was a relief to arrive in Carnarvon ready for the WA Signature Dish regional final. It had been a right kerfuffle getting to our destination with missed flights, flight delays and severe weather warnings but we made it albeit one day late.
We arrived in Carnarvon in the late afternoon and checked into our accommodation at the Best Western Hospitality Inn. Our room was clean and simply appointed with a minibar stocked with nibbles, beer, wine and soft drinks. There were also tea and coffee-making facilities, free WIFI and room service however the internet connection was painfully slow.
On our first night we were a little weary from travelling all day so we ate at the hotel restaurant Sails. Sails is considered one of the more refined dining options in town in addition to being one of the very few restaurants that remain open seven days a week.
Having heard great things about Carnarvon’s fresh seafood it was all I was in the mood for. And the best way to start a seafood feast is with oysters. Now I realise the hot climate of Carnarvon excludes it from farming oysters locally this meant the oysters on Sail’s menu would undoubtedly be imported. However, when I get the fanciful idea of eating oysters I just will not stop until I am satisfied. These giant sized babies came from Frankland Bay in South Australia and were plump, creamy and surprisingly fresh. We enjoyed them served natural with a squeeze of cut lemon.
Before ordering anything else the chef kindly came out to speak with me about suitable gluten free options from his menu. I always appreciate this level of concern as it illustrates to me that they will ensure to take care when preparing my food. Our first dish was a seared prawn salad using local prawns tossed through a mighty sized salad of julienned bacon, roasted pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and baby spinach leaves. It was finished with a lemon, chilli and coriander dressing. The bacon was an odd addition and one we didn’t expect however being cut into such thin slivers it wasn’t overpowering and added just a hint of flavour with each mouthful.
Our second entrée was the grilled ginger scallops. This dish also has a level of curiosity about it as in addition to the enormous scallops served in the shell, there were extra smaller sized ones buried underneath. It worked out quite good value when you consider the price as there ended up being six scallops in total. It came served upon a scoop of steamed rice and wilted Chinese greens.
An unexpected touch of complementary lemon sorbet was brought to our table in the interlude between our first and second courses. After all the spice and ginger flavours it was a welcoming cleanser to prepare for our main meal.
For mains we both ordered the tropical barramundi. The fillet was grilled lightly, served on a bed of bok choy and topped with lemon butter sauce plus a spoonful of chilli mango salsa. A couple of poached prawns topped this collection of ingredients as a strange afterthought. Whilst the fish was soft and tender within, I felt the combination of lemon butter and mango salsa was too eclectic with only a small amount of each so that neither had the chance to shine. The end result was actually a somewhat bland dish. Such a shame because those simple flavours had a lot of potential.
We ended our night which Sail’s cheese platter for two which considering the price once again this was a generous portion size. The chef ensured to serve the water crackers in a separate bowl to avoid any gluten contamination which reinforced to me what a gluten free friendly place this was. There were four different types of cheese; chunks of tasty cheddar, smoked Dutch, Danish blue and Camembert sat among some pieces of fresh fruit and roasted nuts.
The complimentary breakfast provided with our room was very basic including some sliced toast, fruit and cheese plus an array of cereals. There wasn’t any gluten free bread available. You are able to pay a small amount extra for a hot cooked meal if you prefer but instead I bought some gluten free muffins from the local Woolworth’s supermarket which they grilled for me at no extra charge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Carnarvon and whilst the Best Western is by no means the five-star luxury that I love, it was comfortable and clean with friendly service. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again next time we are in the region.Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s accommodation at Best Western Carnarvon was partly funded for by Buy West Eat Best for my involvement in their WA Signature Dish competition. Sails Restaurant 6 West Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 1600 | www.carnarvon.wa.hospitalityinns.com.au
Despite living in Western Australia for nearly twenty years I am ashamed to admit that I have never journeyed further north than the seaside town of Dongara to visit my Bestie. Whenever I plan a holiday, the centre point of our activities is always based around experiencing the food of the places we visit. I didn’t feel any foodie gravitational pull coming from this region of Australia imagining it to be not much more than white sandy beaches, cattle ranches and red expanses of desert. The Boy on the other hand is a huge advocate of the North West and has tried to encourage me to go for years. He was over the moon to hear I was chosen to be the Gascoyne regional blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish competition. He knew this would finally be the reason we could go up there together and he was convinced that I would love it.
After a number of hurdles tried to prevent us reaching our destination including missing a flight and battling a storm, we were incredibly relieved to finally drive into the pretty town of Carnarvon. Our first day was hectically busy with duties for the WA Signature Dish regional final which left our second day free to explore the area. With some help from the locals we managed to go on an extended version of the Gascoyne Food Trail; one unlike any other food trail I have gone on. Cast away images of your previous experiences visiting multiple tourist driven sites stocked with samples of artisan gourmet goods. Instead, this self-drive tour will give you a paddock to plate experience of the Gascoyne as you discover the region’s produce in its raw and naturally fresh state.
Our first stop for the morning was located down on Snapper Jetty to watch one of the local Abacus crab boats come in with their catch. Abacus Fisheries is a family run business owned by Peter Jecks and his wife. Living locally in Carnarvon Peter has been in the industry for over 20 years. Despite such a long time in the crab trade, he remains fiercely passionate being highly focused on producing a quality product in addition to proactively supporting the environmental sustainability of his fishing practices.
Peter is well known amongst Australia’s high profile foodies having featured on a number of television programs including Postcards WA and SBS’s Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia. I was very interested to hear that not a single part of the crab is wasted. The water that is used to cook the crab meat gets packaged and sold as crab stock in gourmet food stores. Even the shell is compounded to use as chitin in the medical industry for a number of applications including the manufacture of the dressings used as a second skin for burn victims.
That day, it turned out to be our lucky morning because not only did we get to see the crab fisherman come in with their haul, but we had timed our visit with one of the local fishing boats Cygnet Lass returning from a four day stint at sea.
This fishing boat provided the day’s fresh fish to Pickles Point Seafood which is located just doors down from Abacus crabs. Pickles Point is run by Gayle Dewar, one of our WA Signature dish contestants and they are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood.
Gayle was kind enough to take me behind the scenes where I saw a beautiful 3kg Red Emperor fish get neatly filleted in the blink of an eye with perfect precision. I made a mental note that next time upon our return to the region, we need to ensure arrange accommodation complete with a kitchenette! I would have loved to have bought some Red Emperor and cooked it up for dinner.
After a morning of photographing delicious fresh seafood, the two of us were desperate to grab a quick snack before we headed out onto the plantations. Harbourside Cafe is located along the same stretch of road as the fishing boat jetties so we ducked in there for a bite to eat. It has the vibe of a beach side fish and chip shop with simple décor and no table service. Their menu is literally pages long with an eclectic mix of local and imported seafood in addition to some Indian and Thai styled curries.
Avoiding the cheaper imported fish dishes, I chose the grilled Carnarvon snapper fillet served with salad and chips. The chef was happy to cook the chips in fresh oil to avoid any gluten contamination. My snapper was an enormous serve of two big fillets and I would have preferred a smaller size at a cheaper price. The fish was soft and flaked apart delicately under my fork.
The Boy ordered the crab cakes and prawn nori rolls. The crab cakes were topped with fresh prawns and a sweet chilli sauce. Obviously not being gluten free I didn’t try them but the Boy said they had a satisfying crunchy exterior with a creamy centre however didn’t have a lot of flavour.
The nori rolls were served deep fried which we both thought was quite curious. Stuffed with fresh prawns, seaweed and capsicum these non-traditionalist snacks were a novelty worth trying at least once.
Refuelled and ready for more exploring we headed out to the ring road affectionately known as the “fruit loop” by locals. The area is filled with fruit and vegetable plantations growing a wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs. The first stop heading out of town was Morel’s Orchard. Run by the absolutely lovely Jean and Doris Morel, this plantation is open to the public seven days a week including public holidays. Who needs a farmers market when you can buy your produce direct from the farmer? Honestly, it was like a dream come true for me!
Morel’s fruits were all so supersized and delicious looking but the most interesting of them all was the black sapote, or chocolate pudding fruit. This fruit is a species of persimmon with a yellow green inedible skin. The centre of the ripe fruit is a dark chocolate colour with the creamy texture of, yes you guessed it, chocolate pudding.
In addition to growing many seasonal fruits, the Morel’s property has row upon row of herbs and other vegetables growing lusciously. Everything looked so well-manicured and cared for as if it was just their own personal backyard veggie patch, but on a much larger scale. The Boy is an avid green thumb and his dream isn’t to be able to buy direct from farmers like me, but more so to be able to have his own veggie patch of this grand scale and get his veggies from his own backyard.
As we thanked Jean and Doris for their hospitality, Doris insisted that we try some of their chocolate coated frozen fruit before we left. I am so glad we did! Forget about Magnum ice-cream, these Morel freezer sweets are worth the visit in their own right. We struggled to choose which ones to eat and ended up greedily grabbing far too many; trying the chocolate coated black sapote, the custard apple, banana and strawberries along with some frozen mango. The smooth black sapote was definitely our favourite with the banana coming a close second.
Whilst many of you may never have heard of a chocolate pudding fruit before, you will be more familiar with one of Carnarvon’s biggest exports to Perth; the banana. I was grateful that Sweeter Banana’s business manager Doriana was happy to take some time out from her busy day to show us through the banana packing facility.
The Boy and I have had many a debate at home over which bananas are better; I love the smaller, sweeter ones and he prefers the picture perfect enormous ones. Whenever he does the grocery shopping he will always come home with the biggest bananas he can find which inevitably results in complaints from me because I think they taste powdery and bland. What I didn’t know was why this is the case.
Doriana was a proud advocate of the smaller banana which is characteristic of the Carnarvon-grown fruit. Their smaller size and better taste is all due to the different climate of the Gascoyne region in comparison to tropical North Queensland where the larger bananas come from. Carnarvon’s weather tends to be hot and dry having a much lower humidity level. The low humidity means that their crops do not suffer from the diseases and pests seen in the tropics making their produce pesticide free.
Because of these weather conditions, the banana plantations have to plant their trees much closer together than in the tropics. This creates a continuous canopy with the tree’s leaves which helps protect the fruit from the burning rays of the sun. As a result the bananas have a much longer growing time resulting in a smaller but much sweeter fruit. Next time you are buying bananas, look for the lunchbox sized versions and you can taste the difference for yourself. I am happy to say I have converted the Boy to eating our local WA sweeter bananas now!
Our final stop on the fruit loop was at the home store on Bumbak’s plantation. This plantation owner had become frustrated with the amount of good fruit she had to throw away year after year just because it wasn’t up to the commercial standard despite the fact it was perfectly fine to eat.
She created a way to value add to this large component of her harvest by making a variety of jams, sauces and marinades. Many of her natural home made products are gluten free and have won a long list of Awards at the Perth Royal Show. We grabbed a couple of jars to take home to try including her banana jam and some Thai coconut chilli marinade.
Heading back into town there is a cute little place worth mentioning called River Gums Café that is marked on the Gascoyne Food trail. It regrettably did not have a lot to offer gluten free so we didn’t stop there for a bite to eat but it is a very pretty location to stop for afternoon tea for those less restricted with their diets.
The last stop on the Gascoyne Food trail is “The Precinct”, Carnarvon’s Heritage area on Babbage Island. This area is home to the One Mile Jetty, a beautiful historical jetty built in 1897 and maintained in good enough condition to walk nearly the full length.
Until very recently you could buy yourself a drink and an ice cream from the Guardsmans’ Van kiosk to enjoy on your jetty walk. With the opening of the new Interpretive Centre, the kiosk has now been closed as it has been replaced with the One Mile Restaurant in the Centre. This restaurant was the location for our WA Signature Dish regional final. On the day of the final, the chef of One Mile Restaurant and I got chatting and I was excited to hear she plans to accommodate for gluten free customers. The restaurant was opening that week and I offered to return in order to try one of her first gluten free cake creations.
I’m glad we made the effort to return. She made a super moist orange almond cake that was different to your usual almond meal based cake. She included some gluten free flour to make it lighter and fluffier. Suffice to say I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it and the Boy who is “not a dessert person” was very happy to help me finish my generous slice. He even said it didn’t taste gluten free! Winning!
As we drove back to our hotel, the Boy looked over at me very satisfied with himself.
“Am I right?” he asked me.
All these years I had dismissed ideas of a trip up North with the perception that there was nothing up here that would interest me. Swallowing my pride humbly there was no way I could refute him; this is a place in Western Australia that every foodie needs to visit.
Gascoyne Food Trail | www.gascoynefood.com.au Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard | Facebook Lot H Harbour Road, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4078 | Open Mon-Sat from 9am-5pm (closed Jan-Feb) Harbourside Cafe 131 Harbour Road, South Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 4111 | Facebook Morel’s Orchard 486 Robinson Street, Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8368 | Open 7 days (incl. PH) from 8.30am-5.30pm Sweeter Banana Cooperative Carnarvon | (08) 9941 9100 | www.sweeterbanana.com Bumbak’s at Terra Temptations 449 North River Road, Carnarvon, WA | 0409 377 934 Available at IGA Cottesloe River Gums Café Turn at the Big Banana on Robinson Street then it 34 Margaret R.O.W., Carnarvon WA 6701 | (08) 9941 8281 | Open Wed-Sunday from 10am-3pm during May to October www.carnarvonheritage.com.au The Precinct is open daily from 9am-5pm, April to November and on weekends only from December to March. One Mile restaurant will be opening mid-May 2014.
I recently travelled up to the Northwest corner of Western Australia as the official blogger for the Gascoyne regional final in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. Having never visited this part of Australia before, I wanted to obtain a clear insight into its food industry in order to understand why they call themselves the “food bowl” of our State. The Boy and I flew in via Exmouth, collected ourselves a rental 4WD from the airport and drove straight to Carnarvon in the pouring rain to be ready to start early the next morning.
The competition event was held at One Mile Restaurant which is housed in the new Interpretive Centre facing out onto the historical One Mile Jetty in the Heritage Precinct. Whilst this ancient but well preserved jetty was constructed back in 1897, the accompanying restaurant was only built recently and hadn’t even officially opened! Their kitchen was so shiny and new creating a perfect work area for our four contestants to create their signature dishes. The fabulous four finalists for the Gascoyne region are Jerolina, Amy, Paul and Gayle. They all live in Carnarvon and show an obvious love for their home town and its amazingly vibrant produce.
The contestants weren’t scheduled to hit the stoves until mid-morning which gave Channel Seven’s Today Tonight camera team plenty of time to get loads of footage including getting individual interviews with each of them. Also joining the team was professional photographer Anton from Simply Designed, whose talent, skills and awesome equipment reminded me what a complete amateur I am with my little camera!
As each contestant was scuttled away for their private interviews, it gave me the chance to have a good chat with those remaining behind and learn more about what it is like living in Carnarvon and more importantly to plug them for suggestions on where to eat locally.
I was surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that despite being a town surrounded by an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetable plantations in addition to having access to some of the freshest seafood, many of the local eateries preferred to obtain cheaper imported ingredients in order to save on costs. Hopefully with highly publicized and well-run events like WA Signature Dish, it will help promote using local produce and this food culture will start to change. Certainly if the passion and enthusiasm of these four locals was anything to go by, it won’t be long before this happens.
Once all the contestant’s interviews were completed it was time for them to don their aprons and get down to business. Before officially commencing the cook-off, the region’s mentor chef Peter Manifis from InContro wished the contestants the best of luck before gesturing them into the kitchen.
Although the four in the kitchen were far too busy to stop and eat, the rest of us were getting pretty peckish. To our delight the newly appointed chef for One Mile Restaurant had kindly prepared a huge spread of food for us to snack on while we anxiously waited to see what the first dish would be. Our lunch included fresh sushi rolls, pumpkin soup, rice paper rolls, scones and a colourful fruit platter. When I chatted to the chef to find out what was gluten free, I was excited to hear she was a huge supporter in using her local produce and plans to promote this in her new restaurant once it opens.
Each contestant received their signature dish ingredients packed neatly in a crate and seeing them all go through each one was like watching kids at Christmas. Jerolina’s signature dish was a whole grilled Snapper served with Dabu dabu and coconut corn. Dabu dabu is a type of hot sauce found in Manado cuisine from Indonesia.
Her signature dish was the first one to be presented to the judges and she certainly set the bar high for her fellow finalists. The fish was so delicate and moist with a rich, spicy flavour from the Dabu dabu sauce. The chargrilled corn also had a hint of spice which balanced elegantly with the sweet coconut flavours.
Those of you who know me well, you will be familiar with my “flying hands of fury”. It is a term used by my friends to describe my ever-moving and highly expressive hand movements. Well, actually they are sometimes more like arm movements.
Within minutes of meeting Amy I concluded we must have been separated at birth because she also sported a similarly fantastic pair of flying hands of fury. Being such an energetic and vibrant person I was excited to see what creative and crazy dish she would create. Her signature dish was a stunning carpaccio of kangaroo fillet served on a bed of Oriental lentils with pickled beetroot. It was plated immaculately and I found it hard to believe she had no chef training.
As I am allergic to kangaroo meat, unfortunately I didn’t try this dish. Roo causes me to develop a rather unusual anaphylactic like response where my throat swells up and I struggle to breathe. Kind of like what I imagine a nut allergy to be. But to roo! It’s not pleasant. I was informed by those who ate the carpaccio that the meat was uber-tender and matched well with the creamy lentils and sweet beetroot.
Gayle runs the front of house for Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard in Carnarvon. Pickles Point are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood so it was logical that this would be the main feature of her signature dish.
She cooked a freshly cut fillet of Shark Bay Pink Snapper topped with butterflied Tiger prawns and served on a sweet potato mash with lime and mayonnaise. I looked over at the judge’s faces and I could see they were struggling to choose a winner. It was going to be such a hard call to make as every dish was outstanding.
The lovely, smiling Paul was the lucky last competitor to serve up his signature dish to the judging panel. This didn’t appear to frazzle him whatsoever and he looked so zen and calm as he prepared his dish. I wish cooking had that effect on me!
His dish was titled the “Gascoyne seafood tasting plate”. It comprised of four equally outstanding components each showcasing a outstanding number of key hero ingredients from the Gascoyne region; King prawns with salsa verde, citrus cured snapper, pan fried Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled vegetables; and snapper tartare with basil drizzle.
Narrowing it down to just one winner was going to be very hard and I didn’t envy the judges having to make this decision. The winner of each regional final will go on to battle it out for the title of WA Signature Dish on WA Day in June. The other three regional finalists are from the areas of Southern Forests, Great Southern and Perth. In order to help prepare the contestants for the big finale, each regional winner will receive intense one-on-one training from their mentor chef. I can see the Peter has a strong competitive streak in him so we couldn’t have asked for a more motivated chef to train our finalist!
As the crowd gathered around to wait for the announcement of the winner I could feel the excitement and tension in the air. The judges had used a points system to score each dish, assessing its flavour, presentation and originality but also on its ability to proudly showcase the produce from the Gascoyne region. Before they declared the winner, we were informed that it was an extremely close call with the top two contestants so close they nearly came in at a tie.
And the winner of the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional is……..Paul Kelly with his stunning Gascoyne seafood tasting plate. A huge congratulations to you Paul and also a big well done to Jerolina, Amy and Gayle for creating such amazing and individual signature dishes. Hopefully we may all meet again next year? 😉
Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best.
For people who eat out regularly the Entertainment Book is an essential annual purchase. It is a book containing hundreds of discounts available for many of the popular restaurants around your chosen capital city in Australia. The books can be purchased through many worthwhile charities and a proportion of the sale price goes to the charity who is selling it. This year we bought ours from the Cancer Council of WA. One of the things I love about the Book is that not only do we get discounts from many of our favourite restaurants but it also encourages us to check out ones we wouldn’t ordinarily visit. Having worked all weekend I felt the need to make the most of the final shreds of sunshine so I flipped through our copy to look for somewhere local that was open for lunch. The Dux café is on South Terrace in Como and have actually been in the area for over ten years. It is a cosy little restaurant that has a strong local following and hosts sell-out degustations and wine dinners on a regular basis.
Dux Café have a number of gluten free options and the chef is happy to adapt other options to make them gluten free. We started with the trio of dips with assorted breads and some gluten free toast on the side for me. The dips included a smooth hummus, a spicy capsicum dip and some olive oil with balsamic. I am guessing the absence of the third dip meant that it wasn’t gluten free.
I was in the mood for share food so we ordered the tasting plate which I was told has components that could be done gluten free. The “prawn duo” consisted of local tiger prawns simply grilled alongside some prawn croquettes that weren’t gluten free. It was served on a bed of fresh home grown herbs, mango, chilli and cherry tomatoes. It would have been good if the croquette was served on a different plate to avoid contamination of crumbs.
On the opposite side of the platter was a gluten free crispy squid salad with house cured streaky bacon and nam jim dressing. The squid was slightly chewy but when eaten in one mouthful along with the salad it packed a powerful punch of flavour. In the middle of the platter was a Persian feta and fig tart with caramelised shallots and basil. As this was obviously this was not gluten free so I left that for the Boy to enjoy while I tucked into the spicy squid salad.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to share all of the platter I also ordered the sautéed exotic mushrooms with creamy sherry vinegar sauce. I would normally order such a dish for breakfast but as many of you may know by now I’m a little nuts for my mushrooms. There were a whole array of different types of mushrooms in there and I was grateful I had gluten free bread on the side to soak up all the creamy naughtiness left in the bottom of the bowl.
We didn’t really NEED dessert but then that never really is the point of dessert is it? I loved the sound of the “Dux trinket tray” and was even more intrigued when our waiter confirmed it was gluten free.
Scattered across the plate were indeed a collection of sweet trinkets as described including triangles of soft white chocolate fudge, raspberry jubes, a large Dux Pedro truffle, thick chunks of honeycomb and some crystalline pistachio praline. Whilst definitely not for the diabetically inclined, this sugar hit had a wonderful balance of elements and fitted in well with our whole concept of sharing a variety of small nibbles for lunch.
Dux offer an alternate dining option for those looking for a relaxed café with a bit of finesse away from the Vic Park and South Perth café strips. Whilst the savoury dishes that we chose did not leave me spinning with excitement, our dessert was something quite interesting and definitely something I would be keen to return back for.Dux Restaurant 71 South Terrace, Como WA 6152 | (08) 9474 9000 | www.duxrestaurant.com.au Price: $$$ (Lunch menu $10-22, Entrée $18-20, Mains $33-39) Food: 6/10 (loved the trinkets and the creamy mushrooms) Service: 2.5/5 (initially attentive but became very slow, waited ages to order dessert) Ambience: 2.5/5 (has a tidy café feel) Drinks: N/A Total: 12/20
Prior to travelling up to the North West corner of Australia for the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional final, I wanted to touch base with the region’s designated chef Peter Manifis. Peter will be judging the four finalists in a cook off in order to select the winning dish that will represent the Gascoyne for the finale. He will then spend time closely with the regional winner mentoring and training them to give them the best chance at winning the competition.
Peter is the part owner and Executive chef for InContro, one of the fine dining local restaurants in my area. The restaurant is located on the South Perth Esplanade and overlooks the Swan River facing towards the Perth City skyline. It makes such a romantic spot for an evening meal offering uninterrupted views of the city lights twinkling away on the water. The Boy and I have celebrated many special occasions at InContro so I was excited when I found out that I was to be working with Peter. Upon meeting him I was inspired to see someone even more enthusiastic and energetic than I am. Those of you who have met me will know that this is really quite an achievement!
Whilst I understand that Chefs are often very busy people, I was grateful he took time out to have a chat with me and share some of his insights into our city’s food industry. We visited the restaurant on a sunny afternoon so we could kick back and enjoy an InContro seafood feast, something that they are very well known for here in Perth. Here’s what Peter had to say to me……
Peter, you are obviously a very passionate foodie, when and how did this love affair with food start?It all started with my grandparents owning fruit and vegetable shops in Perth when I was very young, food has always been in my blood. Moving on to my parents having fish and chip shops, a fish factory, processing plant and selling fish in my early years from age 2 – 15. I have grown up very involved in the food industry. Then of course I got my apprenticeship at the Loose Box.
You underwent your chef’s training at the highly acclaimed Loose Box under the guidance of Chef Alain Farbregues who is recognised as one of our city’s best French chefs. How has working with Alain influenced your career today?Working with Alain has had a great influence on my work and career. It has given me discipline, a good work ethic and enhanced my passion for food. Working under Alain gave me all round knowledge of the basics of the European style of cooking this then gives the grounds for everything else to follow. This is priceless.
Over the past few years we have seen Western Australia grow into a State of avid foodies with an abundance of fantastic new venues opening and food festivals being held all over the State. What excites you about the food scene here in Western Australia?The food scene here in Western Australia is fantastic and I was part of it before it started to get so fancy. It excites me to know that I stayed here in WA to help be a small part of what is such an amazing food industry we have today.
Your restaurant In Contro in South Perth has the reputation for being one of Perth’s top seafood restaurants with much of your produce sourced from our State’s North West. What are you favourite ingredients from the Gascoyne region and what makes it so special?My favourite ingredients are, Shark Bay wild prawns and Plantation vegetables. I am so passionate about this as I get to see the love people put into this produce and this reflects in what we get delivered to the restaurant. This is really special for me.
WA’s Signature Dish is an exciting competition hosted by Buy West Eat Best over the next few months. This competition is open to amateur cooks who love food and cooking but are not professional chefs. The aim is to find the ultimate recipe that puts our State on the plate. You have been chosen to be the mentor chef for the Gascoyne region’s finalist. What is your best advice for the four contestants attending the regional cook off held in Carnarvon next Monday?My advice is this, Regional produce! Use as much of it as you can and just keep it as simple as possible, let the produce speak for itself.
I hear you will be starring on the chef line up for this winter’s Truffle Kerfuffle Festival. I am a total truffle addict and have already booked up our weekend to be full of trufflicious indulgence. How will you be involved with this exciting event?I am also a massive truffle fan and always get involved with anything truffle. I am one of four chefs who will have truffle potato stand. We are cooking two major dinners for over 200 guests cooking a selection of canapés and protein and celebrating the produce with truffle.
Finally, I have dined in your restaurant many times over the years and always found your staff to be very helpful with respect to my gluten intolerance. Do you have any family members with food allergies or intolerances?None of my family members have any allergies or intolerances, however, I do have staff members and customers who do. I also find that as I work on the restaurant floor as well as the kitchen I understand and appreciate people’s requirements and feel they deserve food which is just as varied and exciting as for people who can eat everything. This is why I try to be innovative and always create new and exciting dishes to accommodate everyone. Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Competition. Disclaimer: Chef Peter Manifis kindly offered the above meal for us at InContro for a discounted rate. Thank you Peter, we were not expecting such generosity. In Contro 79 South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9474 5566 | www.incontro.com.au
The Gascoyne region in the north-west of our State is sometimes called the “food bowl of Western Australia”. It includes the regions of Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay and forms the gateway to the world-famous Ningaloo Reef where you are able to swim in the sea alongside the majestic whale sharks. The climate is warm all year round with average temperatures ranging from around 25- 30 C allowing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to be cultivated including bananas, mangos and tomatoes.
The region is also well known for its freshly caught seafood which includes snapper, mullet, whiting, prawns, scallops and crab. I am really looking forward to our travels up North for the WA Signature Dish regional final in early May as I know I will be literally living on seafood. After a whole month of Eat Drink Perth overindulgence my heart and liver will surely be thanking me.
In the lead up to our Gascoyne road trip I was inspired to cook one of my old time favourites from a Kylie Kwong book my mother bought me years ago. The original recipe was for a 750 gram snapper however when I sent the Boy to the fishmongers to gather all the ingredients I needed, he came back with a 3 kg Red Emperor. Slight difference! I shouldn’t complain, a whole Exmouth Red Emperor with prawns sounds and looks even more impressive than a snapper.
His reasoning was that it was much prettier than the snapper. Fair call. Additionally I believe it is one of the most beautiful tasting fish caught from the Gascoyne region. To allow for the super-sizing I have had to amend quantities and cooking times from the original recipe. I have also made some adaptations to utilise more Gascoyne ingredients including tomatoes and fresh chilli. and of course I have ensured it is gluten free and fructose friendly
- 400 gm cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch tarragon
- Cracked white pepper
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 x 2-3kg whole Red Emperor, scaled, cleaned and gutted
- 320gm fresh uncooked prawn meat, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely diced lemongrass
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced ginger
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce/tamari
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon very finely sliced lemongrass cut on the diagonal
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced large red chilli
- Preheat oven to 150C (300F).
- Place the cherry tomatoes in a large roasting tin, drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with tarragon sprigs, pepper and half the salt.
- Cover the tin with foil and roast for 30 minutes.
- Removed foil and roast for a further 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and wilted. Remove tomatoes from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before drizzling with vinegar and sprinkling with the remaining salt.
- Meanwhile, put all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pat fish dry with paper towel and place on a large, oiled oven tray. Fill fish cavity with stuffing mixture, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with a little pepper. Wrap the tail of the fish in foil to prevent it burning when in the oven.
- Cover tray the whole tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and roast for a further 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the fish, it should be just cooked through when tested. The flesh should be white through to the bone. If the flesh is still translucent, cook for another minute or so.
- Carefully slide the fish into a large, shallow bowl. Pour over reserved tomatoes with their pan juices and garnish with lemongrass and chilli. Serve immediately.
There are so many fantastic foodie events on around the City of Perth for the month of April as part of their Eat Drink Perth Festival. Many of the degustations and roving dinners start at over $150 per person and some are up over $200. For those that have money to burn on these events I can highly recommend heading to a few as they are well worth the expense. However I realise that this is not possible for everyone’s budget so I have tried to recreate the roving dinner experience using a collection of vouchers from the Eat Drink Perth Passport. The Eat Drink Perth Passport is a booklet containing a number of discount vouchers for use at venues located around the City.
My dear friend Tara and I managed to enjoy an extended four course lunch covering four different locations in the city for the grand total of $164.50 for two people including drinks. Yes, that is for two people! It works out to be close to half the price of the ticketed events. We called it our “DIY Roving Lunch” and I can highly recommend giving the concept a go before the Passport vouchers run out at the end of the month.
To set myself in the mood and to give me the freedom to enjoy a few drinks I decided to walk into the city from my house in Vic Park. It works out to be about a 90 minute stroll which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem however I foolishly didn’t check the forecast before heading out on foot. By the time I was halfway there I was sweltering. At this point I checked my phone to see that the day was well on its way to hitting a maximum of about 35 C.
By the time I arrived at our first checkpoint The Terrace Hotel, my face was as red as a beetroot and in no way was I looking glamorous enough for a ladies lunch. The Terrace was nearly fully booked and I was lucky to get us a table.
Within minutes of being seated we were given some complimentary bread; normal baguette for Tara and gluten free toasted bread for myself. We both ordered a glass of Madame Coco sparkling wine from the Aude Valley in France ($11 each).
Our voucher for The Terrace Hotel allowed us to buy one main meal off the à la carte menu and get the second one for free. We weren’t ready to launch into a main course immediately so we started with an entrée to share while we enjoyed our complimentary bread. The menu has a number of dishes marked gluten free however our waitress told us some of the other dishes can also be adapted.
We started with the seared scallops on a disc of richly flavoured Linley Valley pressed pork and scattered with capers and watercress. I was informed that the watercress is hand-picked from the chef’s own garden! On reflection at the end of the day, this scallop dish ended up being the highlight for both of us. The blend of soft scallop, creamy cauliflower purée, salty pork and peppery watercress balanced beautifully and it was presented immaculately. Each scallop was fresh, plump and tender and required very little effort to chew.
A number of the mains could be adapted to be gluten free however I wanted to choose the dish that required minimal alterations. Our waitress recommended the Cone Bay barramundi served with crispy skin and grilled to a buttery soft texture. Having first tried this top class barramundi at Eat Drink Perth’s launch party I knew I was in for special treat. The flesh is quite unlike your standard barramundi, with a soft clean finish.
The side dish that accompanied my fish included a baby Exmouth octopus and fennel salad, a half-cob of charred corn and a saffron poached prawn. An interesting combination but it worked. Being the WA Signature Dish official blogger for the Gascoyne region I felt proud to do my duty and have ingredients in my dish that came from the North West of our State.
Tara ordered the Amelia Park beef cheek. A thick nub of meat that had been slow cooked for 12 hours to the point it literally disintegrated under her fork. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my fish I cannot deny I was in envy of that luscious looking chunk of beef.
Her beef was served with some porcini gnocchi that were curiously deep-fried. Tara described them as a crispy skinned, porcini potato croquette and despite not being a traditional way to serve gnocchi she still enjoyed them. To add to more lovely earthy mushroominess, the gnocchi sat on a bed of sautéed oyster, Portebello and button mushrooms.
Despite a very attractive looking dessert menu at The Terrace, we paid our bill and moved onto our next venue; Cheeky Sparrow in Wolf Lane. Wolf Lane has come alive over the past twelve months with a number of great little eateries well worth checking out. I love the feel of being tucked away down a little laneway, it brings up memories of our time living in London where around every nook and cranny you find activity and life.
Cheeky Sparrow’s Eat Drink Perth Passport voucher offers a WA cheeseboard paired with a bottle of either Xabregas Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz for a total of $55. They have gluten free bread available too. The platter contained three Australian cheeses; Tarago River Shadows of Blue, Woodside Charleston Jersey Brie and Old Telegraph Road Mt Baw Baw Gouda.
Alongside the cheese was some Cabernet paste, an oozylicious hunk of raw honeycomb and a very generous mound of toasted gluten free bread. For those with fructose malabsorption, please avoid eating the amazing looking raw honey comb. We are not supposed to eat honey as it is high in fructose.
Our third stop was The Stables Bar for dessert. They offer a dessert tasting platter with the chef’s selection of three desserts for $18. This platter can be adapted to be gluten free.
The first dessert was a deconstructed wagon wheel with a combination of marshmallow, rich dark chocolate ice cream and a sweet raspberry sorbet.
The second component was an Eton mess with tumbles of fresh peaches and plums with meringue and apricot crisps.
The third element was a fluffy light passionfruit and cardamom cream mousse served with passionfruit jelly and a cup of pistachio mango lassi. The lassi was a little overly sour for my liking but I realise that is how they are meant to taste. I only had a small sip anyway as I cannot tolerate mango due to fructose. It was served with a gluten free hazelnut and pistachio biscotti.
Our final stop was for petit fours in the form of a macaron. Jean Pierre Sancho have a buy one get one free voucher in the Passport for their popcorn macaron flavour. With subtle hints of popcorn and a sweet macaron finish this was the perfect finale I needed before braving the sun for the long, slow walk home. By the time I hit the South Perth foreshore I gave up and was thankful that my loving husband empathised and came to pick me up to drive me the rest of the way home.For our DIY Roving Lunch we used the following Eat Drink Perth Passport vouchers: The Terrace Hotel: Buy one main meal and get one main meal free from the a la carte menu for lunch or dinner. Cheeky Sparrow: WA Cheese platter and bottle of Xabregas wine for $55, gluten free bread on request. The Stables Bar: Dessert tasting platter for $18, gluten free option available on request. Jean Pierre Sancho: Buy one popcorn macaron get one free for $2.50. Disclaimer: This roving lunch was funded for by the City of Perth as part of the Eat Drink Perth festival. The individual venues did not receive advance notice of my arrival. Eat Drink Perth is celebrating its 10th year and runs for the whole month of April 2014. For more information head to the Eat Drink Perth website. The Terrace Hotel 237 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | www.terracehotelperth.com.au Cheeky Sparrow 1/317 Murray St, Perth WA 6000 (entry off Wolf Lane) | 0405 550 286 | www.cheekysparrow.com.au www.thestablesbar.com.au Jean Pierre Sancho 878 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6181 1904 | www.jpsancho.com.au
We had only been back in Perth from our tropical holiday in Vietnam for 24 hours and yet we were at it again. Eating. Although we covered a fair bit of ground exploring Vietnam and seeing all the sights, the thing that we did most was eat food. All the food. We both have a shared habit of overeating whilst on holidays and this holiday won hands down for being the feast of the century. Consequently, on our journey homeward there was a lot of talk between us about juice fasts, diets and eating a lot less in general. But old habits die-hard and after running around on some errands in City we found ourselves at The Heritage for a late afternoon lunch.
I am a girl who loves her French champagne however I could hardly say that Moet is my favourite. In fact, I have been known on occasion after drinking a glass or two of a more refined champagne to bad mouth it. The Heritage serve glasses of Moet priced at a very drinkable $15 a glass so despite my tendency to champagne snobbery I could hardly say no. We paired it with a dozen freshly shucked oysters from Frankland Harbour in South Australia. Served perfectly with wedges of fresh lemon and Tabasco sauce, each mouthful slipped down our gullet leaving us with a breath of fresh sea air.
I was craving salad like a health freak and consequently got a bit over excited ordering us a couple of options. Considering the serving size they were all very decently priced ranging from $9-17. The green salad came with plump grilled mushrooms, avocado and asparagus and although it wasn’t much to look at it hit the spot for me. Fresh herbs such as mint and parsley were generously tossed through giving considerable flavour. When placing our order I forgot to mention to our waitress that I cannot eat onion but the pieces were large enough for me to pick out.
The richly coloured salmon was cured in-house with sugar, salt and spices before being smoked with hickory chips giving a buttery smooth texture and subtle sweet, smoky after-taste. It was perched atop of slice of sweet watermelon and dotted with salmon roe, microherbs and watermelon foam.
Initially we had good intentions to exhibit portion control and planned to just order ourselves a couple of light dishes however our holiday binge eating had effectively stretched the size of our stomachs and our waistlines. This meant that after finishing off our oysters, the salmon and all the salads we were still left wanting more.
Another round of champagne seemed like a wise idea and so to go with our drinks we ordered the somewhat healthy “Grand Platter” which comes with four oysters, four scallops and four prawns to share along with some dipping sauces and seaweed salad. I was informed that the sauces were all gluten free but the seaweed salad was not.
The prawns were small, brightly coloured and crunchy fresh. One of our tests to assess the freshness of a prawn is to suck out the head. A prawn head from a super fresh specimen is an absolute culinary delight; do not knock it until you have tried it. Do however make sure you avoid trying this with a not-so-fresh critter as you will be unlikely to want to attempt it again.
Having dessert at the end of a meal is another hard habit to break and I blame my Mum for inheriting her sweet tooth. I struggle to finish a meal on a savoury note and this was no exception. After a small amount of to-ing and fro-ing by our waitress to the kitchen to determine what desserts were gluten free, I was advised to order the crème brûlée.
Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts and I’m so lucky that it is usually gluten free. The Heritage’s version is a reasonable sized serve and could have easily been shared between the two of us. The custard was set beautifully and ended with a creamy finish.
The Boy predictably chose the selection of house made sorbets and ice cream for his dessert. He is never really a dessert person unless it’s ice cream. Or so he keeps telling me. That didn’t seem to stop him from helping finish off my overly generous serve of luscious brûlée.
The Heritage is a lovely mix of the formality and classiness characteristic of their neighbours Print Hall and The Trustee with a more casual styled and priced menu. Their fresh faced staff are enthusiastic and helpful and I look forward to returning.For the 2014 Eat Drink Perth Festival, The Heritage will be holding a Wine Maker’s Dinner with food matched with Champagne from Piper & Charles Heidsieck on Tuesday 8th April 2014 at 6.30pm. Price is $149 per person for a three course dinner with matched champagne. Chompchomp is one of the official bloggers for the Eat Drink Perth Festival 2014. This meal at The Heritage is not sponsored and I paid for it in full. www.theheritageperth.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $15-36, Mains $29-41) Food: 3.5/5 (classic and comforting European dishes with a modern twist) Service: 4/5 (very attentive and welcoming) Ambience: 4/5 (classy, classic and with character) Drinks: 4/5 (number of very affordable Australian & French wines ) Total: 15.5 /20
We really have to consider ourselves lucky living here in Perth. Not only do we have the Swan Valley, a fabulous wine region only half an hour’s drive from the CBD, but for those willing to do a weekender trip we also have Margaret River. In November every year this relaxed little town becomes a buzz with life for the three day food festival; Gourmet Escape. Last year the Boy and I attended in full feasting force visiting the Gourmet Village on both days in addition to attending a few fabulous satellite events. We ate uncontrollably all weekend long and our repeated episodes of over-indulgence stretched our stomachs to near-bursting capacity. After just a few hours of not eating, our saggy baggy internal gizzards would start to gurgle and unbelievably we would get hungry again. On our last night before returning to Perth, we rolled our giant sized bodies down to the main strip to find ourselves more food. Our noses lead us to Morries Anytime.
I started off with looking at Morries Anytime’s cocktail menu. Their mixologist Billy Phillips was recently awarded “highly commended” for the Mixologist Award in the 2013 AHA Awards. Earlier that day at the Food for Thought sessions at Voyager Estate I had thoroughly enjoyed his Billy’s Punch and now I was keen to try more of his beverages. It had been quite a hot day and I needed something non-alcohol to start. This being quite a rarity for me I was thrilled to see a variety of interesting mocktails available. I chose the Green Guy; a jar of cold Green tea with added cucumber, rosemary and lime. I gulped it down eagerly and felt its icy freshness hit the back of my palate and slowly cool me down from the inside. My second drink was a Tart Gin Cooler. It contained a long pour of Tanqueray gin split with a freshly squeezed grapefruit and topped with a splash of Peychauds bitters tonic & fresh basil. It was as strong as rocket fuel and made up for my earlier sobriety.
Morrie’s menu facilitates shared style dining which suited us fine as we just wanted to pick and nibble the night away together. Our first choice was the treacle cured salmon. Melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of brightly coloured salmon had just a delicate hint of caramel sweetness. It was coupled alongside a grilled fennel and pear salad with orange vinaigrette.
For nearly a whole year previously the Boy refused to eat oysters after eating a bad one and I’m so relieved that he has finally put those memories behind him and got back in the oyster saddle. Morries oysters came with a perfect sized dollop of gin and cucumber sorbet. We necked back these fresh, slurpalicious beauties much quicker than we really should have. Gluttony dies hard.
Relishing in the freshness of the seafood we ordered the fresh prawn meat salad served with crispy baby cos lettuce, sweet corn, radish and a thick lemon dressing. After eating quite a lot of heavy food all day these dishes sat so light in our overextended stomachs. The only problem was we kept ordering more.
For the days preceding our trip I was convinced that my iron level were plummeting again as that familiar tiredness, cold chills and achiness had started to return. Whilst I don’t eat red meat often, when my body craves it I listen and consequently ordered myself the porterhouse steak.
The steak was served with a luscious scoop of horseradish crème fraiche on a creamy potato terrine with asparagus and vine ripened tomatoes. That’s my dose of iron for the day, check. As a backup, I wrote myself a reminder in my calendar to take more iron tablets in the following week.
The Boy has also recognised my need for iron as I’m normally a very energetic person and the iron deficiency version of me becomes very quiet and sleepy. Thankfully he kept his lectures on the need to eat a plant based diet to himself that evening and ordered himself the raw zucchini pasta and a rocket salad.
Each “pasta” ribbon was long and spaghetti-like just how we both like it and I quickly nabbed a big forkful before he could fight me off. The zucchini was coated liberally in a creamy nut truffle sauce and mixed in with fresh raw peas and herbs. My inner truffle addict relished in that wondrous unique flavour.
Morries Anytime is a must on your next visit to Margaret River. They have options to suit all dietary requirements including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan dishes. I was really keen to return to try their breakfast menu on the next day but we ran out of time and had to get back to Perth for work. Morries have placed as finalists in both the AHA Awards and the Gold Plate Awards in 2013 and scored an appearance in the latest West Australian Good Food Guide. And rightfully so, we will definitely make a repeat visit next time we are down south.Morries Anytime Shop 2, 149 Bussell Highway, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8280 | www.morries.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas $7-15, Mains $32-38) Food: 3.8/5 (right on the money with share dishes, local ingredients) Service: 3.8/5 (relaxed and casual, no pretension) Ambience: 3.2/5 (dark and moody at night, hard for food photography!) Drinks: 4/5 (go for the rocket fuelled cocktails) Total: 15.2/20
For the first few years as a university student I lived just out of Fremantle and since then it has always felt like the stomping ground of my youth. Back in those days I was a bit quirky and leftfield meaning that I fitted in quite well with the other interesting types you could find walking through Freo’s old streets. Returning there brings back many memories of what was literally a life time ago for me. In those years gone by, the popular Little Creatures Brewery didn’t even exist and its predecessor was a massive crocodile farm of all things! You could pay to go in and have a look and I remember going through there with my Dad and finding the whole thing rather disturbing yet oddly fascinating.
I don’t often manage to encourage the Boy to come with me to Fremantle. It’s a shame because I love so much about it but with the horrendous parking and no similar fond memories of his own I can understand his reluctance. And more to the point, living in the Vic Park area it’s not like we don’t have plenty of our own more local options. It had been a long time since we had visited Little Creatures Brewery and after a three day juice fast I wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice going there for my first day of real food.
I asked our waitress what was available to order gluten free and was given their gluten free menu with a variety of red crosses and scribbles added to indicate what I could eat. All pizzas and desserts were crossed out so we picked a couple of nibbles to share. Whilst nothing on the menu really excited me, share plates are a good excuse to be able to order multiple dishes so I was happy with that.
My happiness was short-lived. I never realised just how average the food at Little Creatures had become. Our beetroot salad came out minutes after placing our order. The beetroot was watery and flavourless like it had come out of a can.
Service was impressively quick despite the entire dining hall being packed to the brim and before long more of our plates came out. For the chickpea falafels, I requested for the pita bread to be served on the side to avoid gluten contamination. The side salad still had onion despite my request for its omission as it is high in fructose and I react if I eat it. The falafels were dry and similarly without much taste however once lavishly covered with the minted yoghurt they were edible. It was unfortunate that we only got a teeny bowl of the yoghurt as each falafel really needed to be smothered in the stuff.
The grilled prawn skewers were the absolutely low light of the meal and I left most of them for the Boy to eat. Even he was reluctant to do so and that is unusual as prawns are about the only animal protein he will still eat happily. Hard and chewy with the flavour of dirty dishwater even the romesco sauce did nothing to save these poor critters.
The grilled haloumi was the only dish we enjoyed. It is hard to get this squeaky dish wrong. The cheese was grilled to a lovely caramelised colour and served with fresh parsley and a lemon wedge. I was thankful we saved the best until last.
There were no gluten free desserts on the menu and I was in some ways relieved because I didn’t think I could get through more of their tasteless food. Instead I took us off in the direction of the Fremantle Markets in search of some macarons. We needed an instant injection of deliciousness to make up for all that unpleasant food. Maison Saint-Honoré never fails to disappoint me with a good old mac-attack hit. Their macarons have not only aced all those vital layers of textures but also had the more difficult and intricate complexity of flavours.
Diverging away from my usual choices I picked honeycomb, their flavour of the month and coconut, The Boy chose my old favourite salted caramel and a raspberry. We savoured them slowly as we walked through the bustle of the Fremantle Markets before making our way back to the car. At least our outing ended on a good note.
Upon reflection of my photos of Little Creatures’ gluten free menu on our way home I noticed that to make the prawn skewers gluten free, the romesco sauce was crossed out yet our gluten free version had it included. Had they changed the ingredients to make it gluten free and therefore served it to me or was it an error? Given my reaction that afternoon my guess is the former although I’m certain that the poor standard of food is bound to have caused a reaction in many people without gluten issues.Little Creatures Brewery 40 Mews Road, Fremantle WA 6160 | (08) 9430 5555 | www.littlecreatures.com.au Price: $$ (Small plates $8-12, Big plates $12-29) Food: 2/5 (cheap food for the beer drinking masses) Service: 3.5/5 (no fuss efficiency, attentive and energetic) Ambience: 3.5/5 (perfect for a Sunday sesh, great views with a buzzing Freo vibe ) Drinks: 3/5 (hard to judge unless you drink beer, short wine list has some drinkable options) Total: 12/20 www.maisonsainthonore.com Price: $ (Macarons $1.50 each, other French pastries available) Food: 9/10 (now that is what I’m talking about!) Service: 9/10 (being half French I’m a little biased but who doesn’t love a French accent?) Total: 18/20